Skip to main content

Full text of "The wise woman; a parable"

See other formats


'    >.         •          • 
*        •       wT 


*      «     Jf     *      •     X     •      •     X 

•         *•«*•        ••        * 

+  •    *  +  *    .  *  . 


•  H  •  •  II  *  *  *  * 

»  k  Jk 

•     -w-    *  .. 

• 


r    *     *    K  T, 

• 


*  •  •  * 


^ .    .     ••••.#•     *    ^    *     «    T*r 


•k 


*    *     *    * 


*     . 

* 

*' 


0  •  * 

*  •  » 


•    •  if  •    *  Ik   •    ••  x  •    • 

»««»*»«*•»        »        * 


o          «         •         •    -'••  «          •          *      .   «          *          •          • 

•i. .    •'   4r- />•''•     4fc<':*-      •     V     •      • 


*  •   •  * 

•         e         « 


•  fl 


0#0«««»*l>»«* 


•         « 


*••* 


*    •     •    * 


*  •  •  * 


•      •     IT    • 

•  «  •     •      #  * 


THE    WISE    WOMAN 


BY    GEORGE     MAC     DONALD 

AUTHOR    OF   "ALEC   FORBES,"    "DAVID   ELGINBROD  " 
ETC.,   ETC. 


STRAHAN    &    CO.,    PUBLISHERS 

34,  PATERNOSTER  ROW,  LONDON 
1875 


CHAPTER  I. 

'"THERE  was  a  certain  country  where  things 
used  to  go  rather  oddly.  For  instance,  you 
could  never  tell  whether  it  was  going  to  rain  or 
hail,  or  whether  or  not  the  milk  was  going  to  turn 
sour.  It  was  impossible  to  say  whether  the  next 
baby  would  be  a  boy  or  a  girl,  or,  even  after  he 

was  a  week  old,  whether  he   would   wake  sweet- 

% 
tempered  or  cross. 

In  strict  accordance  with  the  peculiar  nature  of 
this  country  of  uncertainties,  it  came  to  pass  one 
day  that,  in  the  midst  of  a  shower  of  rain  that 
might  well  be  called  golden,  seeing  the  sun,  shining 

B 

2203404 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


as  it  fell,  turned  all  its  drops  into  molten  topazes, 
and  every  drop  was  good  for  a  grain  of  golden 
corn,  or  a  yellow  cowslip,  or  a  buttercup,  or  a  dan- 
delion at  least, — while  this  splendid  rain  was 
falling,  I  say,  with  a  musical  patter  upon  the  great 
leaves  of  the  horse-chestnuts,  which  hung  like 
Vandyke  collars  about  the  necks  of  the  creamy, 
red-spotted  blossoms,  and  on  the  leaves  of  the  syca- 
mores, looking  as  if  they  had  blood  in  their  veins, 
and  on  a  multitude  of  flowers,  of  which  some  stood 
up  and  boldly  held  out  their  cups  to  catch  their 
share,  while  others  cowered  down  laughing  under 
the  soft  patting  blows  of  the  heavy  warm  drops  ; — 
while  this  lovely  rain  was  washing  all  the  air  clean 
from  the  motes,  and  the  bad  odours,  and  the  poison- 
seeds  that  had  escaped  from  their  prisons  during 
the  long  drought — while  it  fell,  splashing,  and 
sparkling,  with  a  hum,  and  a  rush,  and  a  soft 
clashing — but  stop — I  am  stealing,  I  find,  and  not 


A    PARABLE.  3 

that  only,  but  with  clumsy  hands  spoiling  what  I 
steal : — 

"  O  Rain,  with  your  dull  two-fold  sound, 
The  clash  hard-by,  and  the  murmur  all  round  ; " 

— there !  take  it,  Mr.  Coleridge ; — while,  as  I  was 
saying,  the  lovely  little  rivers  whose  fountains  are 
the  clouds,  and  which  cut  their  own  channels 
through  the  air,  and  make  sweet  noises  rubbing 
against  their  banks  as  they  hurry  down  and  down, 
until  at  length  they  are  pulled  up  on  a  sudden, 
with  a  musical  plash,  in  the  very  heart  of  an 
odorous  flower,  that  first  gasps  and  then  sighs  up  a 
blissful  scent,  or  on  the  bald  head  of  a  stone  that 
never  says  thank  you  ; — while  the  very  sheep  felt  it 
blessing  them,  though  it  could  never  reach  their 
skins  through  the  depth  of  their  long  wool,  and  the 
veriest  hedgehog — I  mean  the  one  with  the  longest 
spikes — came  and  spiked  himself  out  to  impale 'as 
many  of  the  drops  as  he  could  ; — while  the  rain 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


was  thus  falling,  and  the  leaves,  and  the  flowers, 
and  the  sheep,  and  the  cattle,  and  the  hedgehog, 
were  all  busily  receiving  the  golden  rain,  something 
happened.  It  was  not  a  great  battle,  nor  an  earth- 
quake, nor  a  coronation,  but  something  more 
important  than  all  those  put  together:  a  baby-girl 
•was  born — and  her  father  was  a  king,  and  her 
mother  was  a  queen,  and  her  uncles  and  aunts  were 
princes  and  princesses,  and  her  first  cousins  were 
dukes  and  duchesses,  and  not  one  of  her  second 
cousins  was  less  than  a  marquis  or  marchioness, 
or  of  her  third  cousins  less  than  an  earl  or 
countess,  and  below  a  countess  they  did  not  care  to 
count  So  the  little  girl  was  Somebody ;  and  yet 
for  all  that,  strange  to  say,  the  first  thing  she  did 
was  to  cry !  I  told  you  it  was  a  strange  country. 

As  she  grew  up,  everybody  about  her  did  his 
best  to  convince  her  that  she  was  Somebody,  and 
the  girl  herself  was  so  easily  persuaded  of  it  that 


A    PARABLE.  5 

she  quite  forgot  that  anybody  had  ever  told  her  so, 
and  took  it  for  a  fundamental,  innate,  primary,  first- 
born, self-evident,  necessary,  and  incontrovertible 
idea  and  principle  that  she  was  Somebody.  And  far 
be  it  from  me  to  deny  it !  I  will  even  go  so  far  as 
to  assert  that  in  this  odd  country  there  was  a  huge 
number  of  Somebodies.  Indeed,  it  was  one  of  its 
oddities  that  every  boy  and  girl  in  it  was  rather  too 
ready  to  think  he  or  she  was  Somebody ;  and  the 
worst  of  it  was  that  the  princess  never  thought  of 
there  being  more  than  one  Somebody — and  that 
was  herself. 

Far  away  to  the  north  in  the  same  country,  on 
the  side  of  a  bleak  hill,  where  a  horse-chestnut  or  a 
sycamore  was  never  seen,  where  were  no  meadows 
rich  with  buttercups,  only  steep,  rough,  breezy 
slopes,  covered  with  dry  prickly  furze  and  its 
flowers  of  red  gold,  or  moister,  softer  broom  with  its 
flowers  of  yellow  gold,  and  great  sweeps  of  purple 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


heather,  mixed  with  bilberries,  and  crowberries, 
and  cranberries — no,  I  am  all  wrong — there  was 
nothing  out  yet  but  a  few  furze  blossoms,  the  rest 
were  all  waiting  behind  their  doors  till  they  were 
called  ; — and  no  full,  slow-gliding  river  with 
meadow-sweet  along  its  oozy  banks,  only  a  little 
brook  here  and  there,  that  dashed  past  without  a 
moment  to  say  "  How  do  you  do  ?  " — there — would 
you  believe  it  ? — while  the  same  cloud  tla0R  was 
dropping  down  golden  rain  all  about  the  queen's 
new  baby,  was  dashing  huge  fierce  handfuls  of  hail 
upon  the  hills,  with  such  force  that  they  flew 
spinning  off  the  rocks  and  stones,  went  burrowing 
in  the  sheep's  wool,  stung  the  cheeks  and  chin  of 
the  shepherd  with  their  sharp  spiteful  little  blows, 
and  made  his  dog  wink  and  whine  as  they  bounded 
off  his  hard  wise  head  and  long  sagacious  nose  ; — 
only,  when  they  dropped  plump  down  the  chimney, 
and  fell  hissing  in  the  little  fire,  they  caught  it 


A    PARABLE.  7 

then,  for  the  clever  little  fire  soon  sent  them  up  the 
chimney  again,  a  good  deal  swollen,  and  harmless 
enough  for  a  while  ! — there — what  do  you  think  ? — 
among  the  hailstones,  and   the   heather,  and   the 
cold   mountain    air,  another   little   girl   was   born, 
whom  the  shepherd  her  father,  and  the  shepherdess 
her  mother,  and  a  good  many  of  her  kindred  too, 
thought  Somebody.     She  had  not  an  uncle  or  an 
au^^that  was  less  than  a  shepherd  or  dairymaid, 
not  a  cousin  that  was  less  than  a  farm-labourer,  not 
a  second  cousin  that  was  less  than  a  gKiitU,  and 
they  did  not  count  farther.     And  yet,  would  you 
believe  it  ?  she  too  cried  the  very  first  thing.     It 
was   an    odd   country !     And   what   is   still    more 
surprising,  the  shepherd  and  shepherdess  and  the 
dairymaids  and  the  labourers  were  not  a  bit  wiser 
than  the  king  and  the  queen  and  the  dukes  and  the 
marquises  and  the  earls,  for  they  too,  one  and  all, 
so  constantly  taught  the  little  woman  that  she  was 


8  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


Somebody,  that  she  also  forgot  that  there  were  a 
great  many  more  Somebodies  besides  herself  in  the 
world. 

It  was,  indeed,  a  peculiar  country — very  different 
from  ours — so  different  that  my  reader  must  not  be 
too  much  surprised  when  I  add  the  amazing  fact, 
that  most  of  its  inhabitants,  instead  of  enjoying  the 
things  they  had,  were  always  wanting  the  things 
they  had  not,  often  even  the  things  it  waf^fcast 
likely  they  ever  could  have.  The  grown  men  and 
women  being  like  this,  there  is  no  reason  to  be 
further  astonished  that  the  Princess  Rosamond — 
the  name  her  parents  gave  her  because  it  means 
Rose  of  llie  World — should  grow  up  like  them, 
wanting  everything  she  could  and  everything  she 
couldn't  have.  The  things  she  could  have  were  a 
great  many  too  many,  for  her  foolish  parents 
always  gave  her  what  they  could  ;  but  still  there 
remained  a  few  things  they  couldn't  give  her,  for 


A    PARABLE.  9 

they  were  only  a  common  king  and  queen.  They 
could  and  did  give  her  a  lighted  candle  when  she 
cried  for  it,  and  managed  by  much  care  that  she 
should  not  burn  her  ringers  or  set  her  frock  on  fire ; 
but  when  she  cried  for  the  moon,  that  they  could 
not  give  her.  They  did  the  worst  thing  possible 
instead,  however,  for  they  pretended  to  do  what 
they  could  not : — they  got  her  a  thin  disc  of 
brilliantly  polished  silver,  as  near  the  size  of  the 
moon  as  they  could  agree  upon,  and  for  a  time  she 
was  delighted. 

But,  unfortunately,  one  evening  she  made  the 
discovery  that  her  moon  was  a  little  peculiar, 
inasmuch  as  she  could  not  shine  in  the  dark.  Her 
nurse  happened  to  snuff  out  the  candles  as  she  was 
playing  with  it,  and  instantly  came  a  shriek  of  rage, 
for  her  moon  had  vanished.  Presently,  through  the 
opening  of  the  curtains,  she  caught  sight  of  the 
real  moon,  far  away  in  the  sky,  and  shining  quite 


IO  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

calmly,  as  if  she  had  been  there  all  the  time ;  and 
her  rage  increased  to  such  a  degree  that  if  it  had 
not  passed  off  in  a  fit,  I  do  not  know  what  might 
have  come  of  it. 

As  she  grew  up  it  was  still  the  same — with  this 
difference,  that  not  only  must  she  have  everything, 
but  she  got  tired  of .  everything  almost  as  soon  as 
she  had  it.  There  was  an  accumulation  of  things 
in  her  nursery,  and  schoolroom,  and  bedroom  that 
was  perfectly  appalling.  Her  mother's  wardrobes 
were  almost  useless  to  her,  so  packed  were  they 
with  things  of  which  she  never  took  any  notice. 
When  she  was  five  years  old,  they  gave  her  a 
splendid  gold  repeater,  so  close  set  with  diamonds 
and  rubies  that  the  back  was  just  one  crust  of 
gems :  in  one  of  her  little  tempers  as  they  called 
her  hideously  ugly  rages,  she  dashed  it  against  the 
back  of  the  chimney,  after  which  it  never  gave  a 
single  tick,  and  some  of  the  diamonds  went  to  the 


A    PARADLE.  I  I 

ash-pit.  As  she  grew  older  still,  she  became  fond 
of  animals,  not  in  a  way  that  brought  them  much 
pleasure,  or  herself  much  satisfaction.  When 
angry,  she  would  beat  them  and  try  to  pull  them  to; 
pieces,  and  as  soon  as  she  became  a  little  used  to- 
them,  would  neglect  them  altogether.  Then,  if 
they  could,  they  would  run  away,  and  she  was- 
furious.  Some  white  mice,  which  she  had  ceased 
feeding  altogether,  did  so,  and  soon  the  palace  was 
swarming  with  white  mice.  Their  red  eyes  might 
be  seen  glowing,  and  their  white  skins  gleaming,, 
in  every  dark  corner ;  but  when  it  came  to  the 
king's  finding  a  nest  of  them  in  his  second-best 
crown,  he  was  angry,  and  ordered  them  to  be 
drowned.  The  princess  heard  of  it,  however,  and 
raised  such  a  clamour  that  there  they  were  left 
until  they  should  run  away  of  themselves,  and  the 
poor  king  had  to  wear  his  best  crown  every  day 
till  then.  Nothing  that  was  the  princess's  property, 


12  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

whether  she  cared  for  it  or  not,  was  to  be  meddled 
with. 

Of  course  as  she  grew,  she  grew  worse,  for  she 
never  tried  to  grow  better.  She  became  more  and 
more  peevish  and  fretful  every  day — dissatisfied 
not  only  with  what  she  had,  but  with  all  that  was 
around  her,  and  constantly  wishing  things  in 
general  to  be  different.  She  found  fault  with 
everything  and  everybody  and  all  that  happened, 
and  grew  more  and  more  disagreeable  to  everyone 
who  had  to  do  with  her.  At  last,  when  she  had 
nearly  killed  her  nurse,  and  had  all  but  succeeded 
in  hanging  herself,  and  was  miserable  from  morning 
to  night,  her  parents  thought  it  time  to  do 
something. 

A  long  way  from  the  palace,  in  the  heart  of  a 
deep  wood  of  pine-trees,  lived  a  wise  woman.  In 
some  countries  she  would  have  been  called  a  witch, 
but  that  would  have  been  a  mistake,  for  she  never 


A    PARABLE.  13 


did  anything  wicked,  and  had  more  power  than  any 

witch    could    have.       As    her   fame    was    spread 

through  all  the  country,  the  king  heard  of  her,  and, 

thinking  she   might   perhaps   be   able  to   suggest 

something,  sent  for  her.     In  the  dead  of  the  night, 

lest    the    princess    should    know    it,    the    king's 

messenger  brought  into  the  palace  a  tall  woman, 

muffled  from  head  to  foot  in  a  cloak  of  black  cloth. 

In  the  presence  of  both  their  majesties,  the  king,  to 

do    her    honour,    requested   her    to  sit,    but    she 

declined,  and  stood  waiting  to  hear  what  they  had 

to  say.     Nor  had   she   to   wait   long,   for  almost 

instantly  they  began  to  tell  her  the  dreadful  trouble 

they  were  in  with  their  only  child — first  the  king 

talking,  then  the  queen  interposing  with  some  yet 

more  dreadful  fact,  and  at  times  both  letting  out 

a  torrent  of  words  together,  so  anxious  were  they 

to  show    the  wise  woman   that   their    perplexity 

was  real,  and  their  daughter  a  very  terrible  one.. 


14  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

For  a  long  while  there  appeared  no  sign  of 
.approaching  pause.  But  the  wise  woman  stood 
patiently  folded  in  her  black  cloak,  and  listened 
without  word  or  motion.  At  length  silence  fell,  for 
they  had  talked  themselves  tired,  and  could  not 
think  of  anything  more  to  add  to  the  list  of  their 
.child's  enormities. 

After  a  minute,  the  wise  woman  unfolded  her 
.arms,  and  her  cloak  dropping  open  in  front,  dis- 
closed a  garment  made  of  a  strange  stuff,  which  an 
old  poet  who  knew  her  well  has  thus  described: 

All  lilly  white,  withoutten  spot  or  pride, 
That  seemd  like  silke  and  silver  woven  neare ; 
But  neither  silke  nor  silver  therein  did  appeare. 

"  How  very  badly  you  have  treated  her ! "  said 
the  wise  woman :  "  Poor  child." 

"What!  Treated  her  badly?"  gasped  the  king. 

"  She  is  a  very  wicked  child,"  said  the  queen  ; 
and  both  glared  with  indignation. 


A    PARABLE.  15 


"  Yes,  indeed,"  returned  the  wise  woman ;  "  she  is 
very  naughty  indeed,  and  that  she  must  be  made 
to  feel;  but  it  is  half  your  fault  too." 

"What!"  stammered  the  king.  "Haven't  we 
given  her  every  mortal  thing  she  wanted  ?" 

"  Surely,"  said  the  wise  woman.  "  What  else 
could  have  all  but  killed  her!  You  should  have 
given  her  a  few  things  of  the  other  sort.  But  you 
arc  far  too  dull  to  understand  me." 

"You  are  very  polite!"  remarked  the  king,  with 
royal  sarcasm  on  his  thin,  straight  lips. 

The  wise  woman  made  no  answer  beyond  a 
deep  sigh,  and  the  king  and  queen  sat  silent  also 
in  their  anger,  glaring  at  the  wise  woman.  The 
silence  lasted  again  for  a  minute,  and  then  the 
wise  woman  folded  her  cloak  around  her,  and  her 
shining  garment  vanished  like  the  moon  when  a 
great  cloud  comes  over  her.  Yet  another  minute 
passed  and  the  silence  endured,  for  the  smouldering 


1 6  THK    WISE    WOMAN. 

\vrath  of  the  king  and  queen  choked  the  channels 
of  their  speech.  Then  the  wise  woman  turned  her 
back  on  them,  and  so  stood.  At  this  the  rage  of 
the  king  broke  forth,  and  he  cried  to  the  queen, 
stammering  in  his  fierceness  : 

"  How  should  such  an  old  hag  as  that  teach 
Rosamond  good  manners  ?  She  knows  nothing  of 
them  herself !  Look  how  she  stands !  Actually 
with  her  back  to  us  !  " 

At  the  word  the  wise  woman  walked  from  the 
room.  The  great  folding  doors  fell  to  behind  her, 
and  the  same  moment  the  king  and  queen  were 
quarrelling  like  apes  as  to  which  of  them  was  to 
blame  for  her  departure.  Before  their  altercation 
\vas  over,  for  it  lasted  till  the  early  morning,  in 
rushed  Rosamond,  clutching  in  her  hands  a  poor 
little  white  rabbit  of  which  she  was  very  fond,  and 
from  which,  only  because  it  would  not  come  to  her 
when  she  called  it,  she  was  pulling  handfuls  of  fur, 


A    PARABLE. 


in  the  attempt  to  tear  the  squealing,  pink-eared, 
red-eyed  thing  to  pieces. 

w  Rosa !  ~R.oBB.mond!  "  cried  the  queen ; — where- 
upon Rosamond  threw  the  rabbit  in  her  mother's 
face.  The  king  started  up  in  a  fury,  and  ran  to 
seize  her.  She  darted  shrieking  from  the  room. 
The  king  rushed  after  her,  but,  to  his  amazement, 
she  was  nowhere  to  be  seen;  the  huge  hall  was 
empty. — No;  just  outside  the  door,  close  to  .the 
threshold,  with  her  back  to  it,  sat  the  figure  of  the 
wise  woman,  muffled  in  her  dark  cloak,  with  her 
head  bowed  over  her  knees.  As  the  king  stood 
looking  at  her  she  rose  slowly,  crossed  the  hall, 
and  walked  away  down  the  marble  staircase.  The 
king  called  to  her,  but  she  never  turned  her  head, 
or  gave  the  least  sign  that  she  heard  him.  So 
quietly  did  she  pass  down  the  wide  marble  stair, 
that  the  king  was  all  but  persuaded  he  had  seen 
only  a  shadow  gliding  across  the  white  steps. 

C 


l8  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

For  the  princess,  she  was  nowhere  to  be  found 
The  queen  went  into  hysterics,  and  the  rabbit  ran 
away.  The  king  sent  out  messengers,  but  in  vain. 

In  a  short  time  the  palace  was  quiet — as  quiet  as 
it  used  to  be  before  the  princess  was  born.  The 
king  and  queen  cried  a  little  now  and  then,  for  the 
hearts  of  parents  were  in  that  country  strangely 
fashioned; — and  yet  I  am  afraid  the  first  move- 
ment of  those  very  hearts  would  have  been  a  jump  of 
terror  if  the  ears  above  them  had  heard  the  voice  of 
Rosamond  in  one  of  the  corridors.  As  for  the  rest 
of  the  household,  they  could  not  have  made  up  a 
single  tear  amongst  them.  They  thought,  what- 
ever it  might  be  for  the  princess,  it  was  for  every 
one  else  the  best  thing  that  could  have  happened  ; 
and  as  to  what  had  become  of  her,  if  their  heads 
were  puzzled,  their  hearts  took  no  interest  in  the 
question.  The  Lord  Chancellor  alone  had  an  idea 
about  it,  but  he  was  far  too  wise  to  utter  it. 


CHAPTER  H. 

HTHE  fact,  as  is  plain,  was,  that  the  princess  had 
disappeared  in  the  folds  of  the  wise  woman's 
cloak  :  when  she  rushed  from  the  room,  the  wise 
woman  caught  her  to  her  bosom  and  flung  the 
black  garment  around  her.  The  princess  struggled 
wildly,  for  she  was  in  fierce  terror,  and  screamed  as 
loud  as  choking  fright  would  permit  her ;  but  her 
father,  standing  in  the  door,  and  looking  down 
upon  the  wise  woman,  saw  never  a  movement  of 
the  cloak,  so  tight  was  she  held  by  her  captor, 
lie  was  indeed  aware  of  a  most  angry  crying, 
which  reminded  him  of  his  daughter,  but  it  sounded 


2O  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


to  him  so  far  away,  that  he  took  it  for  the  passion 
of  some  child  in  the  street,  outside  the  palace- 
gates.  Hence,  unchallenged,  the  wise  woman 
carried  the  princess  down  the  marble-stairs,  out  at 
the  palace-door,  down  a  great  flight  of  steps 
outside,  across  a  paved  court,  through  the  brazen 
gates,  along  half-roused  streets  where  people  were 
opening  their  shops,  through  the  huge  gates  of  the 
city,  and  out  into  the  wide  road  vanishing  north- 
wards— the  princess  struggling  and  screaming  all 
the  time,  and  the  wise  woman  holding  her  tight 
When  at  length  she  was  too  tired  to  struggle  or 
scream  any  more,  the  wise  woman  unfolded  her 
cloak  and  set  her  down,  and  the  princess  saw  the 
light  and  opened  her  swollen  eyelids.  There  was 
nothing  in  sight  that  she  had  ever  seen  before! 
City  and  palace  had  disappeared.  They  were 
upon  a  wide  road  going  straight  on,  with  a  ditch 
on  each  side  of  it,  that,  behind  them,  widened  into 


A    PARABLE.  21 


the  great  moat  surrounding  the  city.     She  cast  up 
a  terrified  look  into  the  wise  woman's  face  that 
gazed  down  upon  her  gravely  and  kindly.     Now 
the  princess  did  not  in  the  least  understand  kind- 
ness.    She   always   took   it   for   a   sign    either    of 
partiality  or  fear.     So  when  the  wise  woman  looked 
kindly  upon  her,  she  rushed  at  her,  butting  with  her 
head  like  a  ram.     But  the  folds  of  the  cloak  had 
closed   around   the   wise   woman,   and   when    the 
princess  ran  against  it,  she  found  it  hard  as  the 
cloak  of  a  bronze  statue,  and  fell  back  upon  the 
road  with  a  great  bruise  on  her  head.     The  wise 
woman  lifted  her  again,  and  put  her  once  more 
under  the  cloak,  where  she  fell  asleep,  and  where 
she  awoke  again  only  to  find  that  she  was  still 
being  carried  on  and  on. 

When  at  length  the  wise  woman  again  stopped 
and  set  her  down,  she  saw  around  her  a  bright 
moonlit  night,  on  a  wide  heath,  solitary  and 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


houseless.  Here  she  felt  more  frightened  than 
before,  nor  was  her  terror  assuaged  when,  looking 
up,  she  saw  a  stern,  immovable  countenance,  with 
cold  eyes  fixedly  regarding  her.  All  she  knew  of 
the  world  being  derived  from  nursery  tales,  she 
concluded  that  the  wise  woman  was  an  ogress 
carrying  her  home  to  eat  her. 

I  have  already  said  that  the  princess  was,  at  this 
time  of  her  life,  such  a  low-minded  creature,  that 
severity  had  greater  influence  over  her  than  kind- 
ness. She  understood  terror  better  far  than 
tenderness.  When  the  wise  woman  looked  at  her 
thus,  she  fell  on  her  knees  and  held  up  her  hands 
to  her,  crying, 

"  Oh,  don't  eat  me !  don't  eat  me !  " 
Now  this  being  the  best  she  could  do,  it  was  a 
sign  she  was  a  low  creature.     Think  of  it — to  kick 
at  kindness  and  kneel  from  terror !     But  the  stern- 
ness on  the  face  of  the  wise  woman  came  from  the 


A    PARABLE.  23 


same  heart  and  the  same  feeling  as  the  kindness 
that  had  shone  from  it  before  :  the  only  thing  that 
could  save  the  princess  from  her  hatefulness  was 
that  she  should  be  made  to  mind  somebody  else 
than  her  own  miserable  Somebody. 

Without  saying  a  word,  the  wise  woman  reached 
down  her  hand,  took  one  of  Rosamond's,  and, 
lifting  her  to  her  feet,  led  her  along  through  the 
moonlight.  Every  now  and  then  a  gush  of 
obstinacy  would  wrell  up  in  the  heart  of  the  prin- 
cess, and  she  would  give  a  great  ill-tempered  tug, 
and  pull  her  hand  away.  But  then  the  wise 
woman  would  gaze  down  upon  her  with  such  a 
look,  that  she  instantly  sought  again  the  hand  she 
had  rejected — in  pure  terror  lest  she  should  be 
eaten  upon  the  spot.  And  so  they  would  walk  on 
again,  and  when  the  wind  blew  the  folds  of  the 
cloak  against  the  princess,  she  found  them  soft  as 
her  mother's  camel-hair  shawl. 


24  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


After  a  little  while  the  wise  woman  began  to 
sing  to  her,  and  the  princess  could  not  help  listen- 
ing, for  the  soft  wind  amongst  the  low  dry  bushes 
of  the  heath,  the  rustle  of  their  own  steps,  and  the 
trailing  of  the  wise  woman's  cloak,  were  the  only 
sounds  beside. 

And  this  is  the  song  she  sang  : — 

Out  in  the  cold, 

With  a  thin-worn  fold 

Of  withered  gold 

Around  her  rolled, 
Hangs  in  the  air  the  weary  moon. 

She  is  old,  old,  old  ; 

And  her  bones  all  cold, 

And  her  talcs  all  told, 

And  her  things  all  sold, 
And  she  has  no  breath  to  croon. 

Like  a  castaway  clout, 

She  is  quite  shut  out ! 

She  might  call  and  shout, 

But  no  one  about 
Would  ever  call  back — Who's  there  ? 

There  is  never  a  hut, 

Not  a  door  to  shut, 

Not  a  footpath  or  rut, 

Long  road  or  short  cut, 
Leading  to  anywhere ! 


A    PARABLE.  2$ 


She  is  all  alone 

Like  a  clog-picked  bone, 

The  poor  old  crone  ! 

She  fain  would  groan, 
But  she  cannot  find  the  breath. 

She  once  had  a  fire, 

But  she  built  it  no  higher, 

And  only  sat  nigher 

Till  she  saw  it  ex]  ire; 
And  now  she  is  cold  ~s  death. 

She  never  will  sn.ile 

All  the  lonesome  while. 

Oh,  the  mile  after  mile, 

And  never  a  stile ! 
And  never  a  tree  or  a  stone! 

She  has  not  a  tear : 
,  Afar  and  anear 

It  is  all  so  drear, 

But  she  does  not  care, 
Her  heart  is  as  dry  as  a  bone. 

None  to  come  near  her  ! 

No  one  to  cheer  her ! 

No  one  to  jeer  her ! 

No  one  to  hear  her  ! 
Not  a  thing  to  lift  and  hold  ! 

She  is  always  awake, 

But  her  heart  will  not  break; 

She  can  only  quake, 

Shiver  and  shake — 
The  old  woman  is  very  cold. 

As  strange  as  the  song,  was  the  crooning,  wailing 


26  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


tune  that  the  wise  woman  sung.  At  the  first  note 
almost,  you  would  have  thought  she  wanted  to 
frighten  the  princess,  and  so  indeed  she  did.  For 
when  people  will  be  naughty,  they  have  to  be 
frightened,  and  they  are  not  expected  to  like  it 
The  princess  grew  angry,  pulled  her  hand  away, 
and  cried, — 

"  You  are  the  ugly  old  woman.  I  hate  you." 
Therewith  she  stood  still,  expecting  the  wise 
woman  to  stop  also,  perhaps  coax  her  to  go  on  : 
if  she  did,  she  was  determined  not  to  move  a  step. 
But  the  wise  woman  never  even  looked  about ;  she 
kept  walking  on  steadily,  the  same  pace  as  before. 
Little  Obstinate  thought  for  certain  she  would 
turn,  for  she  regarded  herself  as  much  too  precious 
to  be  left  behind  ;  but  on  and  on  the  wise  woman 
went,  until  she  had  vanished  away  in  the  dim  moon- 
light. Then  all  at  once  the  princess  perceived 
that  'she  was  left  alone  with  the  moon — looking 


A    PARABLE.  2J 

down  on  her  from  the  height  of  her  loneliness. 
She  was  horribly  frightened,  and  began  to  run 
after  the  wise  woman,  calling  aloud.  But  the  song 
she  had  just  heard  came  back  to  the  sound  of  her 
own  running  feet — 

All  all  alone 

Like  a  dog-picked  bone  I 

and  again, 

She  might  call  and  shout, 
And  no  one  about 
Would  ever  call  back — Who's  there  ? 

and  she  screamed  as  she  ran.  How  she  wished 
she  knew  the  old  woman's  name,  that  she  might 
call  it  after  her  through  the  moonlight ! 

But  the  wise  woman  had  in  truth  heard  the  first 
sound  of  her  running  feet,  and  stopped  and  turned, 
waiting.  What  with  running  and  crying,  however, 
and  a  fall  or  two  as  she  ran,  the  princess  never  saw 
her  until  she  fell  right  into  her  arms — and  the 
same  moment  into  a  fresh  rage  ;  for  as  soon  as 
any  trouble  was  over,  the  princess  was  always 


28  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

ready  to  begin  another.  The  wise  woman  there- 
fore pushed  her  away,  and  walked  on,  while  the 
princess  ran  scolding  and  storming  after  her.  She 
had  to  run  till,  from  very  fatigue,  her  rudeness 
ceased.  Her  heart  gave  way,  she  burst  into  tears, 
and  ran  on  silently  weeping. 

A  minute  more  and  the  wise  woman  stooped, 
and  lifting  her  in  her  arms,  folded  her  cloak  around 
her.  Instantly  she  fell  asleep,  and  slept  as  soft  and 
as  soundly  as  if  she  had  been  in  her  own  bed. 
She  slept  till  the  moon  went  down ;  she  slept  till 
the  sun  rose  up  ;  she  slept  till  he  climbed  the  top- 
most sky ;  she  slept  till  he  went  down  again,  and 
the  poor  old  moon  came  peaking  and  peering  out 
once  more ;  and  all  that  time  the  wise  woman 
went  walking  on  and  on  very  fast.  And  now  they 
had  reached  a  spot  where  a  few  fir-trees  came  to 
meet  them  through  the  moonlight. 

At  the   same   time   the   princess   awaked,    and 


A    PARABLE.  29 

popping  her  head  out  between   the   folds  of  the 
wise  woman's  cloak — a  very  ugly  little  owlet  she 
looked — saw  that   they   were   entering  the  wood. 
Now  there  is  something  awful  about  every  wood, 
especially  in  the  moonlight,  and  perhaps  a  fir-wood 
is  more  awful  than  other  woods :  for  one  thing,  it 
lets  a  little  more  light  through,  rendering  the  dark- 
ness a  little  more  visible,  as  it  were ;  and  then  the 
trees  go  stretching  away  up  towards  the  moon,  and 
look  as  if  they  cared  nothing  about  the  creatures 
below   them — not  like   the   broad  trees  with  soft 
wide    leaves    that,    in    the    darkness  even,   look 
sheltering.     So  the  princess  is  not  to  be  blamed 
that  she  was  very  much  frightened.     She  is  hardly 
to  be  blamed  either  that,  assured  the  wise  woman 
was  an  ogress  carrying  her  to  her  castle  to  eat  her 
up,  she  began  again  to  kick  and  scream  violently, 
as  those  of  my  readers  who  are  of  the  same  sort  as 
herself,  will  consider  the  right  and  natural  thing  to 


3O  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


do.  The  wrong  in  her  was  this — that  she  had  led 
such  a  bad  life,  that  she  did  not  know  a  good 
woman  when  she  saw  her — took  her  for  one  like 
herself,  even  after  she  had  slept  in  her  arms. 

Immediately  the  wise  woman  set  her  down,  and, 
walking  on,  within  a  few  paces  vanished  among  the 
trees.  Then  the  cries  of  the  princess  rent  the  air, 
but  the  fir-trees  never  heeded  her ;  not  one  of  their 
hard  little  needles  gave  a  single  shiver  for  all  the 
noise  she  made.  But  there  were  creatures  in  the 
forest  who  were  soon  quite  as  much  interested  in 
her  cries  as  the  fir-trees  were  indifferent  to  them. 
They  began  to  harkcn  and  howl  and  snuff  about, 
and  run  hither  and  thither,  and  grin  with  their 
white  teeth,  and  light  up  the  green  lamps  in  their 
eyes.  In  a  minute  or  two  a  whole  army  of  wolves 
and  hyaenas  were  rushing  from  all  quarters  through 
the  pillar-like  stems  of  the  fir-trees,  to  the  place 
where  she  stood  calling  them  without  knowing  it. 


A    PARADLK.  3! 

The  noise  she  made  herself,  however,  prevented  her 
from  hearing  either  their  howls  or  the  soft  patterirg 
of  their  many  trampling  feet  as  they  bounded  over 
the  fallen  fir-needles  and  cones. 

One  huge  old  wolf  had  outspcd  the  rest — not 
that  he  could  run  faster,  but  that  from  experience 
he  could  more  exactly  judge  whence  the  cries  came, 
and  as  he  shot  through  the  wood,  she  caught  sight 
at  last  of  his  lamping  eyes,  coming  swiftly  nearer 
and  nearer.  Terror  silenced  her.  She  stood  with 
her  mouth  opjn  as  if  she  were  going  to  eat  the 
wolf,  but  she  had  no  breath  to  scream  with,  and: 
her  tongue  curled  up  in  her  mouth  like  a  withered 
and  frozen  leaf.  She  could  do  nothing  but  stare  at 
the  coming  monster.  And  now  he  was  taking  a 
few  shorter  bounds,  measuring  the  distance  for  the 
one  final  leap  that  should  bring  him  upon  her, 
when  out  stepped  the  wise  woman  from  behind  the 
very  tree  by  which  she  had  set  the  princess  downr 


32  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


caught  the  wolf  by  the  throat  half-way  in  his  last 
spring,  shook  him  once,  and  threw  him  from  her 
dead.  Then  she  turned  towards  the  princess,  who 
flung  herself  into  her  arms,  and  was  instantly 
lapped  in  the  folds  of  her  cloak. 

But  now  the  huge  army  of  wolves  and  hyaenas 
had  rushed  like  a  sea  around  them,  whose  waves 
leaped  with  hoarse  roar  and  hollow  yell  up  against 
the  wise  woman.  But  she,  like  a  strong  stately 
vessel,  moved  unhurt  through  the  midst  of  them. 
Ever  as  they  leaped  against  her  cloak,  they 
dropped  and  slunk  away  back  through  the  crowd. 
Others  ever  succeeded,  and  ever  in  their  turn  fell 
and  drew  back  confounded.  For  some  time  she 
walked  on  attended  and  assailed  on  all  sides  by  the 
howling  pack.  Suddenly  they  turned  and  swept 
away,  vanishing  in  the  depths  of  the  forest.  She 
neither  slackened  nor  hastened  her  step,  -£>ut  went 
walking  on  as  before. 


A    PARABLE.  33 

In  a  little  while  she  unfolded  her  cloak,  ind  let 
the  princess  look  out.  The  firs  had  ceased,  and 
they  were  on  a  lofty  height  of  moorland,  stony,  and 
bare,  and  dry,  with  tufts  of  heather  and  a  few  small 
plants  here  and  there.  About  the  heath,  on  every 
side,  lay  the  forest,  looking  in  the  moonlight  like  a 
cloud  ;  and  above  the  forest,  like  the  shaven  crown 
of  a  monk,  rose  the  bare  moor  over  which  they 
were  walking.  Presently,  a  little  way  in  front  of 
them,  the  princess  espied  a  white-washed  cottage, 
gleaming  in  the  moon.  As  they  came  nearer,  she 
saw  that  the  roof  was  covered  with  thatch,  over 
which  the  moss  had  grown  green.  It  was  a  very 
simple,  humble  place,  not  in  the  least  terrible  to 
look  at,  and  yet,  as  soon  as  she  saw  it,  her  fear 
again  awoke,  and  always  as  soon  as  her  fear  awoke, 
the  trust  of  the  princess  fell  into  a  dead  sleep. 
Foolish  and  useless  as  she  might  by  ihis  time  have 
known  it,  she  once  more  began  kicking  and 

D 


34  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


screaming,  whereupon  yet  once  more  the  wise 
woman  set  her  dov/n  on  the  heath,  a  few  yards 
from  the  back  of  the  cottage,  and  saying  only,  "  No 
one  ever  gets  into  my  house  who  does  not  knock 
at  the  door  and  ask  to  come  in,"  disappeared  round 
the  corner  of  the  cottage,  leaving  the  princess 
alone  with  the  moon — two  white  faces  in  the  cone 
of  the  night 


CHAPTER  III. 

'""THE  moon  stared  at  the  princess,  and  the 
princess  stared  at  the  moon ;  but  the  moon 
had  the  best  of  it,  and  the  princess  began  to  cry. 
And  now  the  question  was  between  the  moon  and 
the  cottage.  The  princess  thought  she  knew  the 
worst  of  the  moon,  and  she  knew  nothing  at  all 
about  the  cottage,  therefore  she  would  stay  with  the 
moon.  Strange,  was  it  not,  that  she  should  have 
been  so  long  with  the  wise  woman  and  yet  know 
nothing  about  that  cottage  ?  As  for  the  moon, 
she  did  not  by  any  means  know  the  worst  of  her, 
or  even  that,  if  she  were  to  fall  asleep  where  she 


36  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


could  find  her,  the  old  witch  would   certainly  do 
her  best  to  twist  her  face. 

But  she  had  scarcely  sat  a  moment  longer  before 
she  was  assailed  by  all  sorts  of  fresh  fears.  First 
of  all,  the  soft  wind  blowing  gently  through  the 
dry  stalks  of  the  heather  and  its  thousands  of  little 
bells  raised  a  sweet  rustling,  which  the  princess 
took  for  the  hissing  of  serpents,  for  you  know  she 
had  been  naughty  for  so  long  that  she  could  not  in 
a  great  many  things  tell  the  good  from  the  bad. 
Then  nobody  could  deny  that  there,  all  round  about 
the  heath,  like  a  ring  of  darkness,  lay  the  gloomy 
fir-wood,  and  the  princess  knew  what  it  was  full  of, 
and  every  now  and  then  she  thought  she  heard  the 
howling  of  its  wolves  and  hyaenas.  And  who 
could  tell  but  some  of  them  might  break  from 
their  covert  and  sweep  like  a  shadow  across  the 
heath?  Indeed,  it  was  not  once  nor  twice  that  for  a 
moment  she  was  fully  persuaded  she  saw  a  great 

^ 


A    PARABLE.  37 


beast  coming  leaping  and  bounding  through  the 
moonlight,  to  have  her  all  to  himself.  She  did  not 
know  that  not  a  single  evil  creature  dared  set  foot 
on  that  heath,  or  that,  if  one  should  do  so,  it  would 
that  instant  wither  up  and  cease.  If  an  army  of 
them  had  rushed  to  invade  it,  it  would  have  melted 
away  on  the  edge  of  it,  and  ceased  like  a  dying 
wave. — She  even  imagined  that  the  moon  was 
slowly  coming  nearer  and  nearer  down  the  sky,  to 
take  her  and  freeze  her  to  death  in  her  arms.  The 
wise  woman,  too,  she  felt  sure,  although  her  cottage 
looked  asleep,  was  watching  her  at  some  little 
window.  In  this,  however,  she  would  have  been 
quite  right  if  she  had  only  imagined  enough — 
namely,  that  the  wise  woman  was  watching  over 
her  from  the  little  window.  But  after  all,  somehow, 
the  thought  of  the  wise  woman  was  less  frightful 
than  that  of  any  of  her  other  terrors,  and  at  length 
she  began  to  wonder  whether  it  might  not  turn  out 


38  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


that  she  was  no  ogress,  but  only  a  rude,  ill-bred, 
tyrannical,  yet  on  the  whole  not  altogether  ill- 
meaning  person.  Hardly  had  the  possibility  arisen 
in  her  mind,  before  she  was  on  her  feet :  if  the 
woman  was  anything  short  of  an  ogress,  her 
cottage  must  be  better  than  that  horrible  loneliness, 
with  nothing  in  all  the  world  but  a  stare ;  and  even 
an  ogress  had  at  least  the  shape  and  look  of  a 
human  being. 

She  darted  round  the  end  of  the  cottage  to  find 
the  front.  But  to  her  surprise  she  came  only  to 
another  back,  for  no  door  was  to  be  seen.  She 
tried  the  further  end,  but  still  no  door !  She  must 
have  passed  it  as  she  ran — but  no — neither  in  gable 
nor  in  side  was  any  to  be  found  ! 

A  cottage  without  a  door ! — she  rushed  at  it  in  a 
rage  and  kicked  at  the  wall  with  her  feet.  But  the 
wall  was  hard  as  iron,  and  hurt  her  sadly  through 
her  gay  silken  slippers.  She  threw  herself  on  the 


A    PARABLE.  39 


heath,  which  came  up  to  the  walls  of  the  cottage 
on  every  side,  and  roared  and  screamed  with  rage. 
Suddenly,  however,  she  remembered  how  her 
screaming  had  brought  the  horde  of  wolves  and 
hyaenas  about  her  in  the  forest,  and,  ceasing  at 
once,  lay  still,  gazing  yet  again  at  the  moon.  And 
then  came  the  thought  of  her  parents  in  the  palace 
at  home.  In  her  mind's  eye  she  saw  her  mother 
sitting  at  her  embroidery  with  the  tears  dropping 
upon  it,  and  her  father  staring  into  the  fire  as  if  he 
were  looking  for  her  in  its  glowing  caverns.  It  is 
true  that  if  they  had  both  been  in  tears  by  her  side 
because  of  her  naughtiness,  she  would  not  have 
cared  a  straw  ;  but  now  her  own  forlorn  condition 
somehow  helped  her  to  understand  their  grief  at 
having  lost  her,  and  not  only  a  great  longing  to  be 
back  in  her  comfortable  home,  but  a  feeble  flutter 
of  genuine  love  for  her  parents  awoke  in  her  heart 
as  well,  and  she  burst  into  real  tears — soft, 


4O  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


mournful  tears — very  different  from  those  of  rage 
and  disappointment  to  which  she  was  so  much 
used.  And  another  very  remarkable  thing  was 
that  the  moment  she  began  to  love  her  father  and 
mother,  she  began  to  wish  to  see  the  wise  woman 
again.  The  idea  of  her  being  an  ogress  vanished 
utterly,  and  she  thought  of  her  only  as  one  to  take 
her  in  from  the  moon,  and  the  loneliness,  and  the 
terrors  of  the  forest-haunted  heath,  and  hide  her  in 
a  cottage  with  not  even  a  door  for  the  horrid 
wolves  to  howl  against. 

But  the  old  woman — as  the  princess  called  her, 
not  knowing  that  her  real  name  was  the  Wise 
Woman — had  told  her  that  she  must  knock  at  the 
door  :  how  was  she  to  do  that  when  there  was  no 
door  ?  But  again  she  bethought  herself — that,  if 
she  could  not  do  all  she  was  told,  she  could  at  least 
do  a  part  of  it :  if  she  could  not  knock  at  the  door, 
she  could  at  least  knock — say  on  the  wall,  for  there 


A    PARABLE.  4! 


was  nothing  else  to  knock  upon — and  perhaps  the 
old  woman  would  hear  her  and  lift  her  in  by  some 
window.  Thereupon  she  rose  at  once  to  her  feet, 
and  picking  up  a  stone,  began  to  knock  on  the 
Avail  with  it  A  loud  noise  was  the  result,  and  she 
found  she  was  knocking  on  the  very  door  itself. 
For  a  moment  she  feared  the  old  woman  would 
be  offended,  but  the  next  there  came  a  voice 
saying, 

"Who  is  there?" 

The  princess  answered, 

"  Please,  old  woman,  I  did  not  mean  to  knock  so 
loud." 

To  this  there  came  no  reply. 

Then  the  princess  knocked  again,  this  time  with 
her  knuckles,  and  the  voice  came  again,  saying, 

"Who  is  there?" 

And  the  princess  answered, 

"Rosamond." 


42  THE    WISE    AVOMAX. 


Then  a  second  time  there  was  silence.  But 
the  princess  soon  ventured  to  knock  a  third  time. 

"  What  do  you  want  ? "  said  the  voice. 

"  Oh,  please,  let  me  in !"  said  the  princess.  "  The 
moon  will  keep  staring  at  me ;  and  I  hear  the 
wolves  in  the  wood." 

Then  the  door  opened,  and  the  princess  entered. 
She  looked  all  around,  but  saw  nothing  of  the  wise 
woman. 

It  was  a  single  bare  little  room,  with  a  white 
deal  table,  and  a  few  old  wooden  chairs,  a  fire  of 
fir-wood  on  the  hearth,  the  smoke  of  which  smelt 
sweet,  and  a  patch  of  thick-growing  heath  in  one 
corner.  Poor  as  it  was,  compared  to  the  grand 
place  Rosamond  had  left,  she  felt  no  little  satisfac- 
tion as  she  shut  the  door,  and  looked  around  her. 
And  what  with  the  sufferings  and  terrors  she  had 
left  outside,  the  new  kind  of  tears  she  had  shed, 
the  love  she  had  begun  to  feel  for  her  parents,  and 


A    PARABLE.  45 

the  trust  she  had  begun  to  place  in  the  wise 
woman,  it  seemed  to  her  as  if  her  soul  had  grown 
larger  of  a  sudden,  and  she  had  left  the  days  of 
her  childishness  and  naughtiness  far  behind  her. 
People  are  so  ready  to  think  themselves  changed 
when  it  is  only  their  mood  that  is  changed. 
Those  who  are  good-tempered  because  it  is  a  fine 
day,  will  be  ill-tempered  when  it  rains  :  their  selves 
are  just  the  same  both  days ;  only  in  the  one  case 
the  fine  weather  has  got  into  them,  in  the  other  the 
rainy.  Rosamond,  as  she  sat  warming  herself  by 
the  glow  of  the  peat-fire,  turning  over  in  her  mind 
all  that  had  passed,  and  feeling  how  pleasant  the 
change  in  her  feelings  was,  began  by  degrees  to- 
think  how  very  good  she  had  grown,  and  how  veiy 
good  she  was  to  have  grown  good,  and  how 
extremely  good  she  must  always  have  been  that 
she  was  able  to  grow  so  very  good  as  she  now  felt 
she  had  grown;  and  she  became  so  absorbed  in 


44  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


her  self-admiration  as  never  to  notice  either  that 
the  fire  was  dying,  or  that  a  heap  of  fir-cones  lay 
in  a  corner  near  it.  Suddenly,  a  great  wind  came 
roaring  down  the  chimney,  and  scattered  the  ashes 
about  the  floor;  a  tremendous  rain  followed,  and 
fell  hissing  on  the  embers;  the  moon  was  swal- 
lowed up,  and  there  was  darkness  all  about  her. 
Then  a  flash  of  lightning,  followed  by  a  peal  of 
thunder,  so  terrified  the  princess,  that  she  cried 
aloud  for  the  old  woman,  but  there  came  no 
answer  to  her  cry. 

Then  in  her  terror  the  princess  grew  angry,  and 
saying  to  herself,  "She  must  be  somewhere  in  the 
place,  else  who  was  there  to  open  the  door  to  me  ?" 
began  to  shout  and  yell,  and  call  the  wise  woman 
all  the  bad  names  she  had  been  in  the  habit  of 
throwing  at  her  nurses.  But  there  came  not  a 
single  sound  in  reply. 

Strange  to  say,  the  princess  never  thought  of 


A    PARABLE.  45 


telling  herself  now  how  naughty  she  was,  though 
that  would  surely  have  been  reasonable.  On  the 
contrary,  she  thought  she  had  a  perfect  right  to  be 
angry,  for  was  she  not  most  desperately  ill-used — 
and  a  princess  too  ?  But  the  wind  howled  on,  and 
the  rain  kept  pouring  down  the  chimney,  and 
every  now  and  then  the  lightning  burst  out,  and 
the  thunder  rushed  after  it,  as  if  the  great  lumber- 
ing sound  could  ever  think  to  catch  up  with  the 
swift  light ! 

At  length  the  princess  had  again  grown  so 
angry,  frightened,  and  miserable,  all  together,  that 
she  jumped  up  and  hurried  about  the  cottage  with 
outstretched  arms,  trying  to  find  the  wise  woman. 
But  being  in  a  bad  temper  always  makes  people 
stupid,  and  presently  she  struck  her  forehead  such 
a  blow  against  something — she  thought  herself  it 
felt  like  the  old  woman's  cloak — that  she  fell  back 
— not  on  the  floor  though,  but  on  the  patch  of 


.46  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


Jieather,  which  felt  as  soft  and  pleasant  as  any  bed 
in  the  palace.  There,  worn  out  with  weeping  and 
rage,  she  soon  fell  fast  asleep. 

She  dreamed  that  she  was  the  old  cold  woman 
up  in  the  sky,  with  no  home  and  no  friends,  and  no 
nothing  at  all,  not  even  a  pocket ;  wandering, 
wandering  for  ever  over  a  desert  of  blue  sand, 
never  to  get  to  anywhere,  and  never  to  lie  down  or 
die.  It  was  no  use  stopping  to  look  about  her,  for 
what  had  she  to  do  but  for  ever  look  about  her  as 
she  went  on  and  on  and  on — never  seeing  anything, 
and  never  expecting  to  see  anything !  The  only 
shadow  of  a  hope  she  had  was,  that  she  might  by 
slow  degrees  grow  thinner  and  thinner,  until  at  last 
she  wore  away  to  nothing  at  all ;  only,  alas !  she 
•could  not  detect  the  least  sign  that  she  had  yet 
begun  to  grow  thinner.  The  hopelessness  grew  at 
length  so  unendurable  that  she  woke  with  a  start. 
Seeing  the  face  of  the  wise  woman  bending  over 


A    PARABLE.  47 


her,  she  threw  her  arms  around  her  neck  and  held 
up  her  mouth  to  be  kissed.  And  the  kiss  of  the 
wise  woman  was  like  the  rose-gardens  of  Da- 
mascus. 


CHAPTER  IV. 

*inHE  wise  woman  lifted  the  princess  tenderly, 
and  washed  and  dressed  her  far  more  care- 
fully than  even  her  nurse.  Then  she  set  her  down 
by  the  fire,  and  prepared  her  breakfast.  She  was 
very  hungry,  and  the  bread  and  milk  as  good  as  it 
could  be,  so  that  she  thought  she  had  never  in  her 
life  eaten  anything  nicer.  Nevertheless,  as  soon  as 
she  began  to  have  enough,  she  said  to  herself, — 

"  Ha !  I  see  how  it  is !  The  old  woman  wants  to 
fatten  me !  That  is  why  she  gives  me  such  nice 
creamy  milk !  She  doesn't  kill  me  now  because  she's 
going  to  kill  me  then !  She  is  an  ogress  after  all ! " 


A    PARABLE.  40 


Thereupon  she  laid  down  her  spoon,  and  would 
not  eat  another  mouthful — only  followed  the  basin 
with  longing  looks  as  the  wise  woman  carried  it 
away. 

When  she  stopped  eating,  her  hostess  knew 
exactly  what  she  was  thinking  ;  but  it  was  one 
thing  to  understand  the  princess,  and  quite  another 
to  make  the  princess  understand  her :  that  would 
require  time.  For  the  present  she  took  no.  notice, 
but  went  about  the  affairs  of  the  house,  sweeping 
the  floor,  brushing  down  the  cobwebs,  cleaning  the 
hearth,  dusting  the  table  and  chairs,  and  watering 
the  bed  to  keep  it  fresh  and  alive — for  she  never 
had  more  than  one  guest  at  a  time,  and  never 
wouM  allow  that  guest  to  go  to  sleep  upon  any- 
thing that  had  no  life  in  it.  All  the  time  she 
was  thus  busied,  she  spoke  not  a  word  to  the 
princess,  which,  with  the  princess,  went  to  confirm 
her  notion  of  her  purposes.  But  whatever  she 

E 


5O  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


might  have  said  would  have  been  only  perverted  by 
the  princess  into  yet  stronger  proof  of  her  evil 
designs,  for  a  fancy  in  her  own  head  would  out- 
weigh any  multitude  of  facts  in  another's.  She 
kept  staring  at  the  fire,  and  never  looked  round  to 
see  what  the  wise  woman  might  be  doing. 

By  and  by  she  came  close  up  to  the  back  of  her 
chair,  and  said,  "Rosamond  !" 

But  the  princess  had  fallen  into  one  of  her  sulky 
moods,  and  shut  herself  up  with  her  own  ugly 
Somebody;  so  she  never  looked  round,  or  even 
answered  the  wise  woman. 


"Rosamond,"  she  repeated,  "I  am  going  out. 


If 


you  are  a  good  girl,  that  is,  if  you  do  as  I  tell 
you,  I  will  cany  you  back  to  your  father  and 
mother  the  moment  I  return.' 

The  princess  did  not  take  the  least  notice. 

"  Look  at  me,  Rosamond,"  said  the  wise 
woman. 


A    PARABLE.  !;  [ 

But  Rosamond  never  moved — never  even  shruer- 

o 

ged   her    shoulders — perhaps    because   they    were 
already  up  to  her  ears  and  could  go  no  further. 

"I  want  to  help  you  to  do  what  I  tell  you,"  said 
the  wise  woman.  "Look  at  me." 

Still  Rosamond  was  motionless  and  silent, 
saying  only  to  herself,  "  I  know  what  she's  after ! 
She  wants  to  show  me  her  horrid  teeth.  But  I 
won't  look.  I'm  not  going  to  be  frightened  out  of 
my  senses  to  please  her." 

"You  had  better  look,  Rosamond.  Have  you 
forgotten  how  you  kissed  me  this  morning  ?" 

But  Rosamond  now  regarded  that  little  throb  cf 
affection  as  a  momentary  weakness  into  which  the 
deceitful  ogress  had  betrayed  her,  and  almost  de- 
spised herself  for  it.  She  was  one  of  those  who  the 
more  they  are  coaxed  are  the  more  disagreeable. 
For  such  the  wise  woman  had  an  awful  punishment. 
but  she  remembered  that  the  princess  had  been 


52  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


very  ill  brought  up,  and  therefore  wished  to  try  her 
with  all  gentleness  first. 

She  stood  silent  for  a  moment,  to  see  what 
effect  her  words  might  have.  But  Rosamond  only 
said  to  herself, — 

"She  wants  to  fatten  and  eat  me." 

And  it  was  such  a  little  while  since  she  had 
looked  into  the  wise  woman's  loving  eyes,  thrown 
her  arms  round  her  neck,  and  kissed  her ! 

"Well,"  said  the  wise  woman,  gently,  after 
pausing  as  long  as  it  seemed  possible  she  might 
bethink  herself,  "  I  must  tell  you  then  without ; 
only  whoever  listens  with  her  back  turned,  listens 
but  half  and  gets  but  half  the  help." 

"  She  wants  to  fatten  me,"  said  the  princess. 

"  You  must  keep  the  cottage  tidy  while  I  am  out. 
When  I  come  back,  I  must  see  the  fire  bright,  the 
hearth  swept,  and  the'  kettle  boiling ;  no  dust  on 
the  table  or  chairs,  the  windows  clear,  the  floor 


A    PARABLE.  53 

clean,  and  the  heather  in  blossom — which  last 
comes  of  sprinkling  it  with  water  three  times  a-day. 
When  you  are  hungry,  put  your  hand  into  that 
hole  in  the  wall,  and  you  will  find  a  meal." 

"  She  wants  to  fatten  me,"  said  the  princess. 

"  But  on  no  account  leave  the  house  till  I  come 
back,"  continued  the  wise  woman,  "  or  you  will 
grievously  repent  it.  Remember  what  you  have 
already  gone  through  to  reach  it.  Dangers  lie  all 
around  this  cottage  of  mine  ;  but  inside,  it  is  the 
safest  place — in  fact  the  only  quite  safe  place  in  all 
the  country." 

"  She  means  to  eat  me,"  said  the  princess, 
"  and  therefore  wants  to  frighten  me  from  running 
away." 

She  heard  the  voice  no  more.  Then,  suddenly 
startled  at  the  thought  of  being  alone,  she  looked 
hastily  over  her  shoulder.  The  cottage  was  indeed 
empty  of  all  visible  life.  It  was  soundless,  too ; 


54  TIIE    WISE    WOMAN. 


there  was  not  even  a  ticking  clock  or  a  flapping 
flame.  The  fire  burned  still  and  smouldering-wise  ; 
but  it  was  all  the  company  she  had,  and  she  turned 
again  to  stare  into  it. 

Soon  she  began  to  grow  weary  of  having  nothing 
to  do.  Then  she  remembered  that  the  old  woman, 
as  she  called  her,  had  told  her  to  keep  the  house 
tidy. 

"The  miserable  little  pig-sty!"  she  said:  "Where's 
the  use  of  keeping  such  a  hovel  clean  ?  " 

But  in  truth  she  would  have  been  glad  of  the 
employment,  only  just  because  she  had  been  told 
to  do  it  she  was  unwilling  ;  for  there  arc  people — 
however  unlikely  it  may  seem — who  object  to 
doing  a  thing  for  no  other  reason  than  that  it  is 
required  of  them. 

"  I  am  a  princess,"  she  said,  "  and  it  is  very 
improper  to  ask  me  to  do  such  a  thing." 

She  might  have  judged  it  quite  as  suitable  for  a 


A    PARABLE.  55 

princess  to  sweep  away  the  dust  as  to  sit  the  centre 
of  a  world  of  dirt  But  just  because  she  ought,  she 
wouldn't.  Perhaps  she  feared  that  if  she  gave  in  to 
doing  her  duty  once,  she  might  have  to  do  it 
always — which  was  true  enough — for  that  was  the 
very  thing  for  which  she  had  been  specially  born. 

Unable,  however,  to  feel  quite  comfortable  in  the 
resolve  to  neglect  it,  she  said  to  herself,  "  I'm  sure 
there's  time  enough  for  such  a  nasty  job  as  that!' 
and  sat  on,  watching  the  fire  as  it  burned  away,  the 
glowing  red  casting  off  white  flakes,  and  sinking 
lower  and  lower  on  the  hearth. 

By  and  by,  merely  for  want  of  something  to  do, 
she  would  see  what  the  old  woman  had  left  for  her 
in  the  hole  of  the  wall.  But  when  she  put  in  her 
hand  she  found  nothing  there,  except  the  dust 
which  she  ought  by  this  time  to  have  wiped  away. 
Never  reflecting  that  the  wise  woman  had  told  her 
she  would  find  food  there  when  she  was  hungry. 


56  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


she  flew  into  one  of  her  furies,  calling  her  a  cheat, 
and  a  thief,  and  a  liar,  and  an  ugly  old  witch,  and 
an  ogress,  and  I  do  not  know  how  many  wicked 
names  besides.  She  raged  until  she  was  quite 
exhausted,  and  then  fell  fast  asleep  on  her  chair. 
When  she  awoke,  the  fire  was  out. 

By  this  time  she  was  hungry ;  but  without  look- 
ing in  the  hole,  she  began  again  to  storm  at  the 
wise  woman,  in  which  labour  she  would  no  doubt 
have  once  more  exhausted  herself,  had  not  some- 
thing white  caught  her  eye  :  it  was  the  corner  of  a 
napkin  hanging  from  the  hole  in  the  wall.  She 
bounded  to  it,  and  there  was  a  dinner  for  her  of 
something  strangely  good — one  of  her  favourite 
dishes,  only  better  than  she  had  ever  tasted  it  before. 
This  might  surely  have  at  least  changed  her  mood 
towards  the  wise  woman  ;  but  she  only  grumbled 
to  herself  that  it  was  as  it  ought  to  be,  ate  up  the 
food,  and  lay  down  on  the  bed,  never  thinking  of 
f.re  or  dust,  or  water  for  the  heather. 


A    PARABLE.  57 


The  wind  began  to  moan  about  the  cottage,  and 
grew  louder  and  louder,  till  a  great  gust  came  down 
the  chimney,  and  again  scattered  the  white  ashes 
all  over  the  place.  But  the  princess  was  by  this 
time  fast  asleep,  and  never  woke  till  the  wind  had 
sunk  to  silence.  One  of  the  consequences,  how- 
ever, of  sleeping  when  one  ought  to  be  awake,  is 
waking  when  one  ought  to  be  asleep ;  and  the 
princess  awoke  in  the  black  midnight,  and  found 
enough  to  keep  her  awake.  For  although  the 
wind  had  fallen,  there  was  a  far  more  terrible 
howling  than  that  of  the  wildest  wind  all  about  the 
cottage.  Nor  was  the  howling  all ;  the  air  was  full 
of  strange  cries,  and  everywhere  she  heard  the 
noise  of  claws  scratching  against  the  house,  which 
seemed  all  doors  and  windows,  so  crowded  were 
the  sounds,  and  from  so  many  directions.  All  the 
night  long  she  lay  half  swooning,  yet  listening 
to  the  hideous  noises.  But  with  the  first  glimmer 
of  morning  they  ceased. 


58  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


Then  she  said  to  herself,  "  How  fortunate  it  was 
that  I  woke !  They  would  have  eaten  me  up  if  I 
had  been  asleep."  The  miserable  little  wretch 
actually  talked  as  if  she  had  kept  them  out !  If 
she  had  done  her  work  in  the  day,  she  would  have 
slept  through  the  terrors  of  the  darkness,  and 
awaked  fearless ;  whereas  now,  she  had  in  the 
storehouse  of  her  heart  a  whole  harvest  of  agonies, 
reaped  from  the  dun  fields  of  the  night! 

They  were  neither  wolves  nor  hyaenas  which  had 
caused  her  such  dismay,  but  creatures  of  the  air, 
more  frightful  still,  which,  as  soon  as  the  smoke  of 
the  burning  fir-wood  ceased  to  spread  itself  abroad, 
and  the  sun  was  a' sufficient  distance  down  the  sky, 
and  the  lone  cold  woman  was  out,  came  flying  and 
howling  about  the  cottage,  trying  to  get  in  at  every 
door  and  window.  Down  the  chimney  they  would 
have  got,  but  that  at  the  heart  of  the  fire  there 
always  lay  a  certain  fir-cone,  which  looked  like 


A    PARABLE.  59 

solid  gold  red-hot,  and  which,  although  it  might 
easily  get  covered  up  with  ashes,  so  as  to  be  quite 
invisible,  was  continually  in  a  glow  fit  to  kindle  all 
the  fir-cones  in  the  world  :  this  it  was  which  had 
kept  the  horrible  birds — some  say  they  have  a  claw 
at  the  tip  of  every  wing  feather — from  tearing  the 
poor  naughty  princess  to  pieces,  and  gobbling  her 
up. 

When  she  rose  and  looked  about  her,  she  was 
dismayed  to  see  what  a  state  the  cottage  was  in. 
The  fire  was  out,  and  the  windows  were  all  dim 
with  the  wings  and  claws  of  the  dirty  birds,  while 
the  bed  from  which  she  had  just  risen  was  brown 
and  withered,  and  half  its  purple  bells  had  fallen. 
But  she  consoled  herself  that  she  could  set  all  to 
rights  in  a  few  minutes — only  she  must  breakfast 
first.  And,  sure  enough,  there  was  a  basin  of  the 
delicious  bread  and  milk  ready  for  her  in  the  hole 
of  the  wall ! 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


After  she  had  eaten  it,  she  felt  comfortable,  and 
sat  for  a  long  time  building  castles  in  the  air — till 
she  was  actually  hungry  again,  without  having 
done  an  atom  of  work.  She  ate  again,  and  was 
idle  again,  and  ate  again.  Then  it  grew  dark,  and 
she  went  trembling  to  bed,  for  now  she  remembered 
the  horrors  of  the  last  night.  This  time  she  never 
slept  at  all,  but  spent  the  long  hours  in  grievous 
terror,,  for  the  noises  were  worse  than  before.  She 
vowed  she  would  not  pass  another  night  in  such  a 
hateful  haunted  old  shed  for  all  the  ugly  women, 
witches,  and  ogresses  in  the  wide  world.  In  the 
morning,  however,  she  fell  asleep,  and  slept  late. 

Breakfast  was  of  course  her  first  thought,  after 
which  she  could  not  avoid  that  of  work.  It  made 
her  very  miserable,  but  she  feared  the  consequences 
of  being  found  with  it  undone.  A  few  minutes 
before  noon,  she  actually  got  up,  took  her  pinafore 
for  a  duster,  and  proceeded  to  dust  the  table.  But 


A    PARABLE.  6l 

the  wood-ashes  flew  about  so,  that  it  seemed  use- 
less to  attempt  getting  rid  of  them,  and  she  sat 
down  again  to  think  what  was  to  be  done.  But 
there  is  very  little  indeed  to  be  done  when  we  will 
not  do  that  which  we  have  to  do. 

Her  first  thought  now  was  to  run  away  at  once 
while  the  sun  was  high,  and  get  through  the  forest 
before  night  came  on.  She  fancied  she  could 
easily  go  back  the  way  she  had  come,  and  get 
home  to  her  father's  palace.  But  not  the  most 
experienced  traveller  in  the  world  can  ever  go  back 
the  way  tli2  wise  woman  has  brought  him. 

She  got  up  and  went  to  the  door.  It  was 
locked !  What  could  the  old  woman  have  meant 
by  telling  her  not  to  leave  the  cottage  ?  She  was 
indignant. 

The  wise  woman  had  meant  to  make  it  difficult, 
but  not  impossible.  Before  the  princess,  however, 
could  find  the  way  out,  she  heard  a  hand  at  the 


62  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


door,  and  darted  in  terror  behind  it  The  wise 
woman  opened  it,  and,  leaving  it  open,  walked 
straight  to  the  hearth.  Rosamond  immediately 
slid  out,  ran  a  little  way,  and  then  laid  herself 
down  in  the  long  heather. 


CHAPTER  V. 

'"THE  wise  woman  walked  straight  up  to  the 
hearth,  looked  at  the  fire,  looked  at  the  bed, 
glanced  round  the  room,  and  went  up  to  the  table. 
When  she  saw  the  one  streak  in  the  thick  dust 
which  the  princess  had  left  there,  a  smile,  half-sad, 
half-pleased,  like  the  sun  peeping  through  a  cloud 
on  a  rainy  day  in  spring,  gleamed  over  her  face. 
She  went  at  once  to  the  door,  and  called  in  a  loud 
voice, — 

"  Rosamond,  come  to  me." 

All  the  wolves  and  hyccnas,  fast  asleep  in  the 
wood,  heard  her  voice,  and  shivered  in  their 


64  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

dreams.  No  wonder  then  that  the  princess  trem- 
bled, and  found  herself  compelled,  she  could  not 
understand  how,  to  obey  the  summons.  She  rose 
like  the  guilty  thing  she  felt,  forsook  of  herself  the 
hiding-place  she  had  chosen,  and  walked  slowly 
back  to  the  cottage  she  had  left  full  of  the  signs  of 
lier  shame.  When  she  entered  she  saw  the  wise 
woman  on  her  knees,  building  up  the  fire  with  fir- 
cones. Already  the  flame  was  climbing  through 
the  heap  in  all  directions,  crackling  gently,  and 
sending  a  sweet  aromatic  odour  through  the  dusty 
cottage. 

"  That  is  my  part  of  the  work,"  she  said,  rising. 
"  Now  you  do  yours.  But  first  let  me  remind  you 
that  if  you  had  not  put  it  off,  you  would  have  found 
it  not  only  far  easier,  but  by  and  by  quite  pleasant 
work,  much  more  pleasant  than  you  can  imagine 
now ;  nor  would  you  have  found  the  time  go 
wearily ;  you  would  neither  have  slept  in  the  day 


A    PARABLE.  65 

and  let  the  fire  out,  nor  waked  at  night  and  heard 
the-  howling  of  the  beast-birds.  More  than  all, 
you  would  have  been  glad  to  see  me  when  I 
came  back ;  and  would  have  leaped  into  my  arms 
instead  of  standing  there,  looking  so  ugly  and 
foolish." 

As  she  spoke,  suddenly  she  held  up  before  the 
princess  a  tiny  mirror,  so  clear  that  nobody  looking 
into  it  could  tell  what  it  was  made  of,  or  even  see  it 
at  all — only  the  thing  reflected  in  it.  Rosamond 
saw  a  child  with  dirty  fat  cheeks,  greedy  mouth, 
co\vardly  eyes — which,  not  daring  to  look  forward, 
seemed  trying  to  hide  behind  an  impertinent  nose 
— stooping  shoulders,  tangled  hair,  tattered  clothes, 
and  smears  and  stains  everywhere.  That  was 
what  she  had  made  herself!  And  to  tell  the  truth, 
she  was  shocked  at  the  sight,  and  immediately 
began  in  her  dirty  heart  to  lay  the  blame  on  the 
wise  woman,  because  she  had  taken  her  away  from 

F 


66  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


her  nurses  and  her  fine  clothes  ;  while  all  the  time 
she  knew  well  enough  that,  close  by  the  heather 
bed,  was  the  loveliest  little  well,  just  big  enough  to- 
wash  in,  the  water  of  which  was  always  springing 
fresh  from  the  ground,  and  running  away  through 
the  wall.  Beside  it  lay  the  whitest  of  linen  towels, 
with  a  comb  made  of  mother-of-pearl,  and  a  brush 
of  fir-needles,  any  one  of  which  she  had  been  far 
too  lazy  to  use.  She  dashed  the  glass  out  of  the 
wise  woman's  hand,  and  there  it  lay,  broken  into  a 
thousand  pieces ! 

Without  a  word,  the  wise  woman  stooped  and 
gathered  the  fragments — did  not  leave  searching 
until  she  had  gathered  the  last  atom,  after  which 
she  laid  them  all  carefully,  one  by  one,  in  the  fire, 
now  blazing  high  on  the  hearth.  Then  she  stood 
up  and  looked  at  the  princess,  who  had  been 
watching  her  sulkily. 

"  Rosamond,"  she  said,  with  a  countenance  awful 


A    PARABLE.  67 

in  its  sternness,  "  until  you  have  cleansed  this 
room " 

"  She  calls  it  a  room ! "  sneered  the  princess 
to  herself. 

"  You  shall  have  no  morsel  to  eat.  You  may 
drink  of  the  well,  but  nothing  else  you  shall  have. 
When  the  work  I  set  you  is  done,  you  will  find 
food  in  the  same  place  as  before.  I  am  going  from 
home  again ;  and  again  I  warn  you  not  to  leave  the 
house." 

"  She  calls  it  a  house ! — It's  a  good  thing  she's 
going  out  of  it  anyhow  !  "  said  the  princess,  turning 
her  back  for  mere  rudeness,  for  she  was  one  who, 
even  if  she  liked  a  thing  before,  would  dislike  it  the 
moment  any  person  in  authority  over  her  desired 
her  to  do  it. 

When  she  looked  again,  the  wise  woman  had 
vanished. 

Thereupon  the  princess  ran  at  once  to  the  door, 


53  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


and  tried  to  open  it ;  but  open  it  would  not.     She 
searched  on  all  sides,  but  could  discover  no  way  of 
getting  out.      The  windows  would  not  open — at 
least  she    could   not   open  them  ;    and   the   only 
outlet  seemed  the  chimney,  which  she  was  afraid 
to  try  because' of  the  fire,  which  looked  angry,  she 
thought,  and  shot  out  green  flames,  when  she  went 
near  it.     So  she  sat  down  to  consider.     One  may 
well  wonder   what   room   for   consideration   there 
was — with  all  her  work  lying  undone  behind  her. 
She  sat  thus,  however,  considering,  as  she  called  it, 
until  hunger  began  to  sting  her,  when  she  jumped 
up  and  put  her  hand  as  usual  in  the  hole  of  the 
wall :  there  was  nothing  there  !     She  fell  straight 
into   one   of  her  stupid   rages ;    but   neither   her 
hunger  nor  the  hole  in  the  wall  heeded  her  rage. 
Then,  in  a  burst  of  self-pity,  she  fell  a-weeping,  but 
neither  the  hunger  nor  the  hole  cared  for  her  tears. 
The  darkness  began  to  come  on,  and  her  hunger 


A    PARABLE.  69 

grew  and  grew,  and  the  terror  of  the  wild  noises  of 
the  last  nights  invaded  her.     Then  she  began  to 
feel  cold,    and  saw  that  the  fire  was  dying.     She 
darted  to  the  heap  of  cones  and  fed  it.     It  blazed 
up  cheerily,  and  she  was  comforted  a  little.     Then 
she  thought  with  herself  it  would  surely  be  better 
to  give  in  so  far,  and  do  a  little  work,  than  die  of 
hunger.     So  catching  up  a  duster,  she  began  upon 
the  table.     The  dust  flew  about  and  nearly  choked 
her.      She   ran   to   the   well   to   drink,    and    was 
refreshed  arid  encouraged.     Perceiving  now  that  it 
was  a  tedious  plan  to  wipe  the  dust  from  the  table 
on  to  the  floor,  whence  it  would  have   all  to  be 
swept  up  again,  she  got  a  wooden  platter,  wiped 
the  dust  into  that,  carried  it  to  the  fire,  and  threw 
it  in.     But  all  the  time  she  was  getting  more  and 
more  hungry,  and  although  she  tried  the  hole  again 
and  again,  it  was  only  to  become  more  and  more 
certain  that  work  she  must  if  she  would  cat. 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


At  length  all  the  furniture  was  dusted,  and  she 
began  to  sweep  the  floor,  which  happily  she  thought 
of  sprinkling  with  water,  as  from  the  window  she 
had  seen  them  do  to  the  marble  court  of  the  palace. 
That  swept,  she  rushed  again  to  the  hole — but 
still  no  food !  She  was  on  the  verge  of  another 
rage,  when  the  thought  came  that  she  might  have 
forgotten  something.  To  her  dismay  she  found 
that  table  and  chairs  and  everything  was  again 
covered  with  dust, — not  so  badly  as  before,  how- 
ever. Again  she  set  to  work,  driven  by  hunger, 
and  drawn  by  the  hope  of  eating,  and  yet  again, 
after  a  second  careful  wiping,  sought  the  hole. 
But  no !  nothing  was  there  for  her !  What  could 
it  mean  ? 

I  ler  asking  this  question  was  a  sign  of  progress : 
it  showed  that  she  expected  the  wise  woman  to 
keep  her  word.  Then  she  bethought  her  that  she 
had  forgotten  the  household  utensils,  and  the 


A    PARABLE.  "Jl 

dishes  and  plates,  some  of  which  wanted  to  be 
v/ashed  as  well  as  dusted. 

Faint  with  hunger,  she  set  to  work  yet  again. 
One  tiling  made  her  think  of  another,  until  at 
length  she  had  cleaned  everything  she  could 
think  of.  Now  surely  she  must  find  some  food  in 
the  hole ! 

When  this  time  also  there  was  nothing,  shi 
began  once  more  to  abuse  the  wise  woman  as  fals2 
and  treacherous ; — but  ah !  there  was  the  bed 
imwatered !  That  was  soon  amended. — Still  no 
supper  ! — Ah  !  there  was  the  hearth  unswept,  and 
the  fire  wanted  making  up  ! — Still  no  supper  !  What 
else  could  there  be  ?  She  was  at  her  wits'  end,  and 
in  very  weariness,  not  laziness  this  time,  sat  down 
and  gazed  into  the  fire.  There,  as  she  gazed,  she 
spied  something  brilliant — shining  even  in  the 
midst  of  the  fire  :  it  was  the  little  mirror  all 
whole  again  ;  but  little  she  knew  that  the  dust 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


which  she  had  thrown  into  the  fire  had  helped  to 
heal  it. 

She  drew  it  out  carefully,  and,  looking  into  it, 
saw,  not  indeed  the  ugly  creature  she  had  seen 
there  before,  but  still  a  very  dirty  little  animal ; 
whereupon  she  hurried  to  the  well,  took  off  her 
clothes,  plunged  into  it,  and  washed  herself  clean. 
Then  she  brushed  and  combed  her  hair,  made  her 
clothes  as  tidy  as  might  be,  and  ran  to  the  hole  in 
the  wall :  there  was  a  huge  basin  of  bread  and 
milk! 

Never  had  she  eaten  anything  with  half  the 
relish !  Alas !  however,  when  she  had  finished, 
she  did  not  wash  the  basin,  but  left  it  as  it  was, 
revealing  how  entirely  all  the  rest  had  been  done 
only  from  hunger.  Then  she  threw  herself  on  the 
heather,  and  was  fast  asleep  in  a  moment.  Never 
an  evil  bird  came  near  her  all  that  night,  nor  had 
she  so  much  as  one  troubled  dream. 


A    PARABLE.  73 

In  the  morning,  as  she  lay  awake  before 
getting  up,  she  spied  what  seemed  a  door  behind 
the  tall  eight-day  clock  that  stood  silent  in  the 
corner. 

"  Ah  !  "  she  thought,  "  that  must  be  the  way 
cut !  "  and  got  up  instantly.  The  first  thing  she 
did,  however,  was  to  go  to  the  hole  in  the  wall. 
Nothing  was  there. 

"  Well,  I  am  hardly  used  !  "  she  cried  aloud.  "All 
that  cleaning  for  the  cross  old  woman  yesterday, 
and  this  for  my  trouble — nothing  for  breakfast! 
Not  even  a  crust  of  bread !  Does  Mistress  Ogress 
fancy  a  princess  will  bear  that !  " 

The  poor  foolish  creature  seemed  to  think  that 
the  work  of  one  clay  ought  to  serve  for  the  next 
day  too !  But  that  is  nowhere  the  way  in  the 
whole  universe.  How  could  there  be  a  universe  in 
that  case  ?  And  even  she  never  dreamed  of  apply- 
ing the  same  rule  to  her  breakfast. 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


"  How  good  I  was  all  yesterday  !  "  she  said,  "  and 
how  hungry  and  ill-used  I  am  to  day ! " 

But  she  would  not  be  a  slave,  and  do  over  again 
to-day  what  she  had  done  only  last  night !  SJie 
didn't  care  about  her  breakfast !  She  might  have 
it,  no  doubt,  if  she  dusted  all  the  wretched  place 
again,  but  she  was  not  going  to  do  that — at  least, 
without  seeing  first  what  lay  behind  the  clock  ! 

Off  she  darted,  and,  putting  her  hand  behind  the 
clock,  found  the  latch  of  a  door.  It  lifted,  and  the 
door  opened  a  little  way.  By  squeezing  hard,  she 
managed  to  get  behind  the  clock,  and  so  through 
the  door.  But  how  she  stared,  when,  instead  of 
the  open  heath,  she  found  herself  on  the  marble 
floor  of  a  large  and  stately  room,  lighted  only  from 
above.  Its  walls  were  strengthened  by  pilasters, 
and  in  every  space  between  was  a  large  picture, 
from  cornice  to  floor.  She  did  not  know  what  to 
make  of  it.  Surely  she  had  run  all  round  the 


A    PARABLE.  75 


cottage,  and  certainly  had  seen  nothing  of  this  size 
near  it !  She  forgot  that  she  had  also  run  round 
v.-hat  she  took  for  a  hay-mow,  a  peat-stack,  and 
several  other  things  which  looked  of  no  consequence 
in  the  moonlight ! 

"So  then,"  she  cried,  "the  old  woman  is  a  cheat! 
I  believe  she's  an  ogress  after  all,  and  lives  in  a 
palace — though  she  pretends  it's  only  a  cottage, 
to  keep  people  from  suspecting  that  she  eats  good 
little  children  like  me  !  " 

Had  the  princess  been  tolerably  tractable,  she 
would  by  this  time  have  known  a  good  deal  about 
the  wise  woman's  beautiful  house,  whereas  she  had 
never  till  now  got  further  than  the  porch.  Neither 
was  she  at  all  in  its  innermost  places  now. 

But,  king's  daughter  as  she  was,  she  was  not  a 
little  daunted  when,  stepping  forward  from  the 
recess  of  the  door,  she  saw  what  a  great  lordly  hall 
it  was.  She  dared  hardly  look  to  the  other  end, 


76  THE    WISE    WOMAX. 

it  seemed  so  far  off;  so  she  began  to  gaze  at  the 
things  near  her,  and  the  pictures  first  of  all,  for  she 
had  a  great  liking  for  pictures.  One  in  particular 
attracted  her  attention.  She  came  back  to  it 
several  times,  and  at  length  stood  absorbed  in  it. 

A  blue  summer  sky,  with  white  fleecy  clouds 
floating  beneath  it,  hung  over  a  hill  green  to  the 
very  top,  and  alive  with  streams  darting  down  its 
sides  toward  the  valley  below.  On  the  face  of  the 
hill  strayed  a  flock  of  sheep  feeding,  attended  by  a 
shepherd  and  two  dogs.  A  little  way  apart,  a  girl 
stood  with  bare  feet  in  a  brook,  building  across  it  a 
bridge  of  rough  stones.  The  wind  was  blowing 
her  hair  back  from  her  rosy  face.  A  lamb  was 
feeding  close  beside  her,  and  a  sheep-dog  was  try- 
ing to  reach  her  hand  to  lick  it. 

"  Oh  how  I  wish  I  were  that  little  girl !  "  said  the 
princess  aloud.  "  I  wonder  how  it  is  that  some 
people  arc  made  to  be  so  much  happier  than  others  ! 


A    PARABLE.  77 

If  I  were  that  little  girl,  no  one  would  ever  call  me 
naughty." 

She  gazed  and  gazed  at  the  picture.  At  length 
she  said  to  herself, — 

"  I  do  not  believe  it  is  a  picture.  It  is  the  real 
country,  with  a  real  hill,  and  a  real  little  girl  upon 
it.  I  shall  soon  see  whether  this  isn't  another  of 
the  old  witch's  cheats!" 

She  went  close  up  to  the  picture,  lifted  her  foot, 
and  stepped  over  the  frame. 

"  I  am  free  !  I  am  free  !"  she  exclaimed,  and  she 
felt  the  wind  upon  her  cheek. 

The  sound  of  a  closing  door  struck  on  her  ear. 
She  turned — and  there  was  a  blank  wall,  without 
door  or  window,  behind  her!  The  hill  with  the 
sheep  was  before  her,  and  she  set  out  at  once  to 
reach  it. 

Now  if  I  am  asked  how  this  could  be,  I  can  only 
answer  that  it  was  a  result  of  the  interaction  of 


73  THE    WISE     V/OMAX. 


tilings  outside  and  things  inside,  of  the  wise 
woman's  skill,  and  the  silly  child's  folly.  If  this 
does  not  satisfy  my  questioner,  I  can  only  add,  that 
the  wise  woman  was  able  to  do  far  more  wonderful 
things  than  this. 


CHAPTER  VI. 

TV/I"  EANTIME  the  wise  woman  was  busy — as  she 
always  was  ;  and  her  business  now  was  with 
the  child  of  the  shepherd  and  shepherdess,  away  in 
the  north.     Her  name  was  Agnes. 

Her  father  and  mother  were  poor,  and  could  not 
give  her  many  things.  Rosamond  would  have 
utterly  despised  the  rude  simple  playthings  she 
had.  Yet  in  one  respect  they  were  of  more  value 
far  than  hers  :  the  king  bought  Rosamond's  with 
his  money ;  Agnes's  father  made  hers  with  his 
hands. 

And  while  Agnes  had  but  few  things — not  sec- 


SO  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


ing  many  things  about  her,  and  not  even  knowing 
that  there  were  many  things  anywhere,  she  did  not 
wish  for  many  things,  and  was  therefore  neither 
covetous  nor  avaricious. 

She  played  with  the  toys  her  father  made  her, 
and  thought  them  the  most  wonderful  things  in 
the  world — windmills,  and  little  crooks,  and  water- 
wheels,  and  sometimes  lambs  made  all  of  wool, 
and  dolls  made  out  of  the  leg-bones  of  sheep, 
which  her  mother  dressed  for  her;  and  of  such 
playthings  she  was  never  tired.  Sometimes,  how- 
ever, she  preferred  playing  with  stones,  which  were 
plentiful,  and  flowers,  which  were  few,  or  the  brooks 
that  ran  down  the  hill,  of  which,  although  they 
were  many,  she  could  only  play  with  one  at  a  time, 
and  that  indeed  troubled  her  a  little— or  live  Iambs 
that  were  not  all  wool,  or  the  sheep-dogs,  which 
were  very  friendly  with  her,  and  the  best  of  play- 
fellows, as  she  thought,  for  she  had  no  human  ones 


A    PARABLE.  Si 


to  compare  them  with.  Neither  was  she  greedy 
after  nice  things,  but  content,  as  well  she  might  be, 
with  the  homely  food  provided  for  her.  Nor  was 
she  by  nature  particularly  self-willed  or  disobedient ; 
she  generally  did  what  her  father  and  mother 
wished,  and  believed  what  they  told  her.  But  by 
degrees  they  had  spoiled  her.  And  this  was  the 
way :  they  were  so  proud  of  her  that  they  always 
repeated  everything  she  said,  and  told  everything 
she  did,  even  when  she  was  present ;  and  so  full  of 
admiration  of  their  child  were  they,  that  they 
wondered  and  laughed  at  and  praised  things  in  her 
which  in  another  child  would  never  have  struck  them 
as  the  least  remarkable,  and  some  things  even 
which  would  in  another  have  disgusted  them 
altogether.  Impertinent  and  rude  things  done  by 
their  child  they  thought  so  clever  !  laughing  at  them 
as  something  quite  marvellous ;  her  commonplace 
speeches  were  said  over  again  as  if  they  had  been 
G 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


the  finest  poetry ;  and  the  pretty  ways  which  every 
moderately  good  child  has  were  extolled  as  if  the 
result  of  her  excellent  taste,  and  the  choice  of  her 
judgment  and  will.  They  would  even  say  some- 
times that  she  ought  not  to  hear  her  own  praises 
for  fear  it  should  make  her  vain,  and  then  whisper 
them  behind  their  hands,  but  so  loud  that  she 
could  not  fail  to  hear  every  word.  The  consequence 
was  that  she  soon  came  to  believe — so  soon  that 
she  could  not  recall  the  time  when  she  did  not 
believe — as  the  most  absolute  fact  in  the  universe, 
that  she  was  SOMEBODY ;  that  is,  she  became 
immoderately  conceited. 

Now  as  the  least  atom  of  conceit  is  a  thing  to 
be  ashamed  of,  you  may  fancy  what  she  was  like 
with  such  a  quantity  of  it  inside  her  !  At  first  it 
did  not  show  itself  outside  in  any  very  active  form, 
but  the  wise  woman  had  been  to  the  cottage,  and 
had  seen  her  sitting  alone  with  such  a  smile  of 


A    PARABLE.  83 

self-satisfaction  upon  her  face  as  would  have  been 
quite  startling  to  her,  if  she  had  ever  been  startled 
at  anything.  For  through  that  smile  she  could  see 
lying  at  the  root  of  it  the  worm  that  made  it.  For 
some  smiles  are  like  the  ruddiness  of  certain  apples, 
which  is  owing  to  a  centipede,  or  other  creeping 
thing,  coiled  up  at  the  heart  of  them.  Only  her 
worm  had  a  face  and  shape  the  very  image  of  her 
own  ;  and  she  looked  so  simpering,  and  mawkish, 
and  self-conscious,  and  silly,  that  she  made  the 
wise  woman  feel  rather  sick. 

Not  that  the  child  was  a  fool.  Had  she  been, 
the  wise  woman  would  have  only  pitied  and  loved 
her,  instead  of  feeling  sick  when  she  looked  at  her. 
She  had  very  fair  abilities,  and  were  she  once  but 
made  humble,  would  be  capable  not  only  of  doing 
a  good  deal  in  time,  but  of  beginning  at  once  to 
grow  to  no  end.  But  if  she  were  not  made  humble, 
her  growing  would  be  to  a  mass  of  distorted  shapes 


84  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


all  huddled  together ;  so  that,  although  the  body 
she  now  showed  might  grow  up  straight  and  well- 
shaped  and  comely  to  behold,  the  new  body  that 
was  growing  inside  of  it,  and  would  come  out  of  it 
when  she  died,  would  be  ugly,  and  crooked  this 
way  and  that,  like  an  aged  hawthorn  that  has  lived 
hundreds  of  years  exposed  upon  all  sides  to  salt 
sea-winds. 

As  time  went  on,  this  disease  of  self-conceit 
went  on  too,  gradually  devouring  the  good  that 
was  in  her.  For  there  is  no  fault  that  does  not 
bring  its  brothers  and  sisters  and  cousins  to  live 
with  it.  By  degrees,  from  thinking  herself  so 
clever,  she  came  to  fancy  that  whatever  seemed  to 
her,  must  of  course  be  the  correct  judgment,  and 
whatever  she  wished,  the  right  thing  ;  and  grew  so 
obstinate,  that  at  length  her  parents  feared  to 
thwart  her  in  anything,  knowing  well  that  she 
would  never  give  in.  But  there  are  victories  far 


A    PARABLE.  85 

worse  than  defeats ;  and  to  overcome  an  angel  too 
gentle  to  put  out  all  his  strength,  and  ride  away  in 
triumph  on  the  back  of  a  devil,  is  one  of  the 
poorest. 

So  long  as  she  was  left  to  take  her  own  way  and 
do  as  she  would,  she  gave  her  parents  little  trouble. 
She  would  play  about  by  herself  in  the  little  gar- 
den with  its  few  hardy  flowers,  or  amongst  the 
heather  where  the  bees  were  busy ;  or  she  would 
wander  away  amongst  the  hills,  and  be  nobody 
knew  where,  sometimes  from  morning  to  night ; 
nor  did  her  parents  venture  to  find  fault  with 
her. 

She  never  went  into  rages  like  the  princess ;  and 
would  have  thought  Rosamond — oh,  so  ugly  and 
vile !  if  she  had  seen  her  in  one  of  her  passions. 
But  she  was  no  better  for  all  that,  and  was  quite  as 
ugly  in  the  eyes  of  the  wise  woman,  who  could  not 
only  see  but  read  her  face.  What  is  there  to 


86  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


choose  between  a  face  distorted  to  hideousness  by 
anger,  and  one  distorted  to  silliness  by  self-com- 
placency ?  True,  there  is  more  hope  of  helping  the 
angry  child  out  of  her  form  of  selfishness  than  the 
conceited  child  out  of  hers  ;  but  on  the  other  hand, 
the  conceited  child  was  not  so  terrible  or  dangerous 
as  the  wrathful  one.  The  conceited  one,  however, 
was  sometimes  very  angry,  and  then  her  anger  was 
more  spiteful  than  the  other's ;  and,  again,  the 
wrathful  one  was  often  very  conceited  too.  So 
that,  on  the  whole,  of  two  very  unpleasant  creatures, 
I  would  say  that  the  king's  daughter  would  have 
been  the  worse,  had  not  the  shepherd's  been  quite 
as  bad. 

But,  as  I  have  said,  the  wise  woman  had  her  eye 
upon  her  :  she  saw  that  something  special  must  be 
done,  else  she  wrould  be  one  of  those  who  kneel  to 
their  own  shadows  till  feet  grow  on  their  knees ; 
then  go  down  on  their  hands  till  their  hands  grow 


A    PARABLE.  87 


into  feet ;  then  lay  their  faces  on  the  ground  till 
they  grow  into  snouts  ;  when  at  last  they  are  a 
hideous  sort  of  lizards,  each  of  which  believes 
himself  the  best,  wisest,  and  loveliest  being  in  the 
world,  yea,  the  very  centre  of  the  universe.  And 
so  they  run  about  for  ever  looking  for  their  own 
shadows  that  they  may  worship  them,  and  miser- 
able because  they  cannot  find  them,  being  them- 
selves too  near  the  ground  to  have  any  shadows ; 
and  what  becomes  of  them  at  last,  there  is  but  one 
who  knows. 

The  wise  woman,  therefore,  one  day  walked  up 
to  the  door  of  the  shepherd's  cottage,  dressed  like  a 
poor  woman,  and  asked  for  a  drink  of  water.  The 
shepherd's  wife  looked  at  her,  liked  her,  and 
brought  her  a  cup  of  milk.  The  wise  woman  took 
it,  for  she  made  it  a  rule  to  accept  every  kindness 
that  was  offered  her. 

Agnes  was  not  by  nature  a  greedy  girl,  as  I  have 


88  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


said  ;  but  self-conceit  will  go  far  to  generate  every 
other  vice  under  the  sun.  Vanity,  which  is  a  form 
of  self-conceit,  has  repeatedly  shown  itself  as  the 
deepest  feeling  in  the  heart  of  a  horrible  mur- 
deress. 

That  morning,  at  breakfast,  her  mother  had 
stinted  her  in  milk — just  a  little — that  she  might 
have  enough  to  make  some  milk-porridge  for  their 
dinner.  Agnes  did  not  mind  it  at  the  time,  but 
when  she  saw  the  milk  now  given  to  a  beggar,  as 
she  called  the  wise  woman — though  surely  one 
might  ask  a  draught  of  water,  and  accept  a 
draught  of  milk,  without  being  a  beggar  in  any  such 
sense  as  Agnes's  contemptuous  use  of  the  word 
implied — a  cloud  came  upon  her  forehead,  and  a 
double  vertical  wrinkle  settled  over  her  nose.  The 
wise  woman  saw  it,  for  all  her  business  was  with 
Agnes  though  she  little  knew  it,  and,  rising,  went 
and  offered  the  cup  to  the  child,  where  she  sat  with 


A    PARABLE.  89 


lier  knitting  in  a  corner.  Agnes  looked  at  it,  did 
not  want  it,  was  inclined  to  refuse  it  from  a  beggar, 
but  thinking  it  would  show  her  consequence  to 
.assert  her  rights,  took  it  and  drank  it  up.  For 
whoever  is  possessed  by  a  devil  judges  with  the 
mind  of  that  devil  ;  and  hence  Agnes  was  guilty  of 
such  a  meanness  as  many  who  are  themselves 
•  capable  of  something  just  as  bad  will  consider 
.incredible. 

The  wise  woman  waited  till  she  had  finished  it 
— then,  looking  into  the  empty  cup,  said  : 

"  You  might  have  given  me  back  as  much  as  you 
Iliad  no  claim  upon  !" 

Agnes  turned  away  and  made  no  answer — far 
.less  from  shame  than  indignation. 

The  wise  woman  looked  at  the  mother. 
"  You  should  not  have  offered  it  to  her  if  you  did 
not  mean  her  to  have  it, "  said  the  mother,  siding 
vvith  the  devil  in  her  child  against  the  wise  woman 


9O  THE    WISE    WOMAN". 


and  her  child  too.  Some  foolish  people  think  they 
take  another's  part  when  they  take  the  part  he 
takes. 

The  wise  woman  said  nothing,  but  fixed  her  eyes- 
upon  her,  and  soon  the  mother  hid  her  face  in  her 
apron  weeping.     Then  she  turned  again  to  Agnes, 
who  had  never  looked  round  but  sat  with  her  back 
to  both,  and  suddenly  lapped  her  in  the  folds  of" 
her  cloak.     When  the  mother  again  lifted  her  eyes,, 
she  had  vanished. 

Never  supposing  she  had  carried  away  her  child, 
but  uncomfortable  because  of  what  she  had  said  to 
the  poor  woman,  the  mother  went  to  the  door,  and 
called  after  her  as  she  toiled  slowly  up  the  hill. 
But  she  never  turned  her  head  ;  and  the  mother 
went  back  into  her  cottage. 

The  wise  woman  walked  close  past  the  shepherd 
and  his  dogs,  and  through  the  midst  of  his  flock  of 
sheep.  The  shepherd  wondered  where  she  could. 


A    PARABLE.  9! 


be  going — right  up  the  hill.  There  was  something 
strange  about  her  too,  he  thought ;  and  he  followed 
her  with  his  eyes  as  she  went  up  and  up. 

It  was  near  sunset,  and  as  the  sun  went  down,  a 
gray  cloud  settled  on  the  top  of  the  mountain, 
which  his  last  rays  turned  into  a  rosy  gold. 
Straight  into  this  cloud  the  shepherd  saw  the 
woman  hold  her  pace,  and  in  it  she  vanished.  He 
little  imagined  that  his  child  was  under  her  cloak. 

He  went  home  as  usual  in  the  evening,  but 
Agnes  had  not  come  in.  They  were  accustomed  to 
such  an  absence  now  and  then,  and  were  not  at 
first  frightened  ;  but  when  it  grew  dark  and  she  did 
not  appear,  the  husband  set  out  with  his  dogs  in 
one  direction,  and  the  wife  in  another,  to  seek  their 
child.  Morning  came  and  they  had  not  found  her. 
Then  the  whole  country-side  arose  to  search  for  the 
missing  Agnes;  but  day  after  day  and  night  after 
night  passed,  and  nothing  was  discovered  of  or 


92  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


concerning  her,  until  at  length  all  gave  up  the 
search  in  despair  except  the  mother,  although  she 
was  nearly  convinced  now  that  the  poor  woman 
had  carried  her  off. 

One  day  she  had  wandered  some  distance  from 
her  cottage,  thinking  she  might  come  upon  the 
remains  of  her  daughter  at  the  foot  of  some  cliff, 
•when  she  came  suddenly  instead  upon  a  discon- 
solate-looking creature  sitting  on  a  stone  by  the 
side  of  a  stream.  Her  hair  hung  in  tangles  from 
her  head ;  her  clothes  were  tattered,  and  through 
the  rents  her  skin  showed  in  many  places  ;  her 
cheeks  were  white,  and  worn  thin  with  hunger ;  the 
hollows  were  dark  under  her  eyes,  and  they  stood 
out  scared  and  wild.  When  she  caught  sight  of 
the  shepherdess,  she  jumped  to  her  feet,  and  would 
have  run  away,  but  fell  down  in  a  faint. 

At  first  sight  the  mother  had  taken  her  for  her 
own  child,  but  now  she  saw,  with  a  pang  of  dis- 


A    PARABLE. 


93 


appointment,  that  she  had  mistaken.     Full  of  com- 
passion nevertheless,  she  said  to  herself : 

"If  she  is  not  my  Agnes,  she  is  as  much  in 
need  of  help  as  if  she  were.  If  I  cannot  be  good 
to  my  own,  I  will  be  as  good  as  I  can  to  some 
other  woman's ;  and  though  I  should  scorn  to  be 
consoled  for  the  loss  of  one  by  the  presence  of 
another,  I  yet  may  find  some  gladness  in  rescuing; 
one  child  from  the  death  which  has  taken  the 
other." 

Perhaps  her  words  were  not  just  like  these,, 
but  her  thoughts  were.  She  took  up  the  child, 
and  carried  her  home.  And  this  is  how  Rosamond 
came  to  occupy  the  place  of  the  little  girl  whom 
she  had  envied  in  the  picture. 


CHAPTER  VII. 

AJOTWITHSTANDING  the  differences  be- 
tween the  two  girls,  which  were,  indeed,  so 
many  that  most  people  would  have  said  they  were 
not  in  the  least  alike,  they  were  the  same  in  this, 
that  each  cared  more  for  her  own  fancies  and 
desires  than  for  anything  else  in  the  world.  But  I 
will  tell  you  another  difference :  the  princess  was 
like  several  children  in  one — such  was  the  variety 
of  her  moods  ;  and  in  one  mood  she  had  no 
recollection  or  care  about  anything  whatever 
belonging  to  a  previous  mood — not  even  if  it  had 
left  her  but  a  moment  before,  and  had  been  so 


A    PARABLE. 


95 


violent  as  to  make  her  ready  to  put  her  hand  in 
the  fire  to  get  what  she  wanted.  Plainly  she  was 
the  mere  puppet  of  her  moods,  and  more  than  that, 
any  cunning  nurse  who  knew  her  well  enough  could 
call  or  send  away  those  moods  almost  as  she 
pleased,  like  a  showman  pulling  strings  behind  a 
show.  Agnes,  on  the  contrary,  seldom  changed 
her  mood,  but  kept  that  of  calm  assured  self- 
satisfaction.  Father  nor  mother  had  never  by  wise 
punishment  helped  her  to  gain  a  victory  over 
herself,  and  do  what  she  did  not  like  or  choose ; 
and  their  folly  in  reasoning  with  one  unreasonable 
had  fixed  her  in  her  conceit.  She  would  actually 
nod  her  head  to  herself  in  complacent  pride  that 
she  had  stood  out  against  them.  This,  however, 
was  not  so  difficult  as  to  justify  even  the  pride  of 
having  conquered,  seeing  she  loved  them  so  little, 
and  paid  so  little  attention  to  the  arguments  and 
persuasions  they  used.  Neither,  when  she  found 


96  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


herself  wrapped  in  the  dark  folds  of  the  wise 
woman's  cloak,  did  she  behave  in  the  least  like  the 
princess,  for  she  was  not  afraid.  "  She'll  soon  set 
me  down,"  she  said,  too  self-important  to  suppose 
that  any  one  would  dare  to  do  her  an  injury. 

Whether  it  be  a  good  thing  or  a  bad  not  to  be 
afraid  depends  on  what  the  fearlessness  is  founded 
upon.  Some  have  no  fear  because  they  have  no- 
knowledge  of  the  danger :  there  is  nothing  fine  in 
that.  Some  are  too  stupid  to  be  afraid  :  there  is 
nothing  fine  in  that.  Some  who  are  not  easily 
frightened  would  yet  turn  their  backs  and  run  the 
moment  they  were  frightened :  such  never  had 
more  courage  than  fear.  But  the  man  who  will  do 
his  work  in  spite  of  his  fear  is  a  man  of  true  courage. 
The  fearlessness  of  Agnes  was  only  ignorance  : 
she  did  not  know  what  it  was  to  be  hurt ;  she  had 
never  read  a  single  story  of  giant  or  ogress  or  wolf; 
and  her  mother  had  never  carried  out  one  of  her 


A    PARABLE.  97 


threats  of  punishment.  If  the  wise  woman  had 
but  pinched  her,  she  would  have  shown  herself  an 
abject  little  coward,  trembling  with  fear  at  every 
change  of  motion  so  long  as  she  carried  her. 

Nothing  such,  however,  was  in  the  wise  woman's 
plan  for  the  curing  of  her.  On  and  on  she  carried 
her  without  a  word.  She  knew  that  if  she  set  her 
down  she  would  never  run  after  her  like  the 
princess,  at  least  not  before  the  evil  thing  was 
already  upon  her.  On  and  on  she  went,  never 
halting,  never  letting  the  light  look  in,  or  Agnes 
look  out.  She  walked  very  fast,  and  got  home 
to  her  cottage  very  soon  after  the  princess  had 
gone  from  it. 

But  she  did  not  set  Agnes  down  either  in  the 
cottage  or  in  the  great  hall.  She  had  other  places, 
none  of  them  alike.  The  place  she  had  chosen  for 
Agnes  was  a  strange  one — such  a  one  as  is  to  be 
found  nowhere  else  in  the  wide  world. 

II 


98  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


It  was  a  great  hollow  sphere,  made  of  a  substance 
similar  to  that  of  the  mirror  which  Rosamond  had 
broken,  but  differently  compounded.  That  sub- 
stance no  one  could  see  by  itself.  It  had  neither 
door,  nor  window,  nor  any  opening  to  break  its 
perfect  roundness. 

The  wise  woman  carried  Agnes  into  a  dark  room, 
there  undressed  her,  took  from  her  hand  her 
knitting  needles,  and  put  her,  naked  as  she  wa? 
born,  into  the  hollow  sphere. 

What  sort  of  place  it  was  she  could  not  tell. 
She  could  see  nothing  but  a  faint,  cold,  bluish  light 
all  about  her.  She  could  not  feel  that  anything 
supported  her,  and  yet  she  did  not  sink.  She 
stood  for  a  while,  perfectly  calm,  then  sat  down. 
Nothing  bad  could  happen  to  her — she  was  so 
important !  And,  indeed,  it  was  but  this  :  she  had 
cared  only  for  Somebody,  and  now  she  was  going 
to  have  only  Somebody.  Her  own  choice  was 


A    PARABLE.  </_) 

going  to  be  carried  a  good  deal  farther  for  her 
than  she  would  have  knowingly  carried  it  for 
herself. 

After  sitting  a  while,  she  wished  she  had 
something  to  do,  but  nothing  came.  A  little 
longer,  and  it  grew  wearisome.  She  would  see 
whether  she  could  not  walk  out  of  the  strange 
luminous  dusk  that  surrounded  her. 

\Yalk  she  found  she  could,  well  enough,  but 
walk  out  she  could  not.  On  and  on  she  went 
keeping  as  much  in  a  straight  line  as  she  might, 
but  after  walking  until  she  was  thoroughly  tired, 
she  found  herself  no  nearer  out  of  her  prison  than 
before.  She  had  not,  indeed,  advanced  a  single 
step ;  for,  in  whatever  direction  she  tried  to  go, 
the  sphere  turned  round  and  round,  answering  her 
feet  accordingly.  Like  a  squirrel  in  his  cage,  she 
but  kept  placing  another  spot  of  the  cunningly  sus- 
pended sphere  under  her  feet,  and  she  would  have 


IOO  'i'HE    WISE    WOMAN. 


been  still  only  at  its  lowest  point  after  walking 
for  ages. 

At  length  she  cried  aloud  ;  but  there  was  no 
answer.  It  grew  dreary  and  drearier — in  her,  that 
is  ;  outside  there  was  no  change.  Nothing  was 
overhead,  nothing  under  foot,  nothing  on  either 
hand,  but  the  same  pale,  faint,  bluish  glimmer. 
She  wept  at  last,  then  grew  very  angry,  and  then 
sullen ;  but  nobody  heeded  whether  she  cried  or 
laughed.  It  was  all  the  same  to  the  cold  unmoving 
twilight  that  rounded  her.  On  and  on  went  the 
dreary  hours — or  did  they  go  at  all  ? — "  no  change, 
no  pause,  no  hope  ;" — on  and  on  till  she  felt  she 
was  forgotten,  and  then  she  grew  strangely  still  and 
fell  asleep. 

The  moment  she  was  asleep  the  wise  woman 
came,  lifted  her  out,  and  laid  her  in  her  bosom  ;  fed 
her  with  a  wonderful  milk,  which  she  received 
without  knowing  it ;  nursed  her  all  the  night  long, 


A    PARABLE.  IOI 

and,  just  ere  she  awoke,  laid  her  back  in  the  blue 
sphere  again. 

When  first  she  came  to  herself,  she  thought  the 
horrors  of  the  preceding  day  had  been  all  a  dream 
of  the  night.  But  they  soon  asserted  themselves 
as  facts,  for  here  they  were  ! — nothing  to  see  but  a 
cold  blue  light,  and  nothing  to  do  but  see  it !  Oh, 
how  slowly  the  hours  went  by  !  She  lost  all  notion 
of  time.  If  she  had  been  told  that  she  had  been 
there  twenty  years,  she  would  have  believed  it — or 
twenty  minutes — it  would  have  been  all  the  same  : 
except  for  weariness,  time  was  for  her  no  more. 

Another  night  came,  and  another  still,  during 
both  of  which  the  wise  woman  nursed  and  fed 
her.  But  she  knew  nothing  of  that,  and  the  same 
one  dreary  day  seemed  ever  brooding  over  her. 

All  at  once,  on  a  third  day,  she  was  aware  that  a 
naked  child  was  seated  beside  her.  But  there  was 
something  about  the  child  that  made  her  shudder. 


1O2  TUB    WISE    WOMAN. 


She  never  looked  at  Agnes,  but  sat  with  her  chin 
sunk  on  her  chest,  and  her,  eyes  staring  at  her  own 
toes.  She  was  -the  colour  of  pale  earth,  with  a 
pinched  nose,  and  a  mere  slit  in  her  face  for  a 
mouth. 

"  How  ugly  she  is  !  "  thought  Agnes.  "  What 
business  has  she  beside  me  ? " 

But  it  was  so  lonely  that  she  would  have  been 
glad  to  play  with  a  serpent,  and  put  out  her  hand 
to  touch  her.  She  touched  nothing.  The  child 
also  put  out  her  hand — but  in  the  direction  away 
from  Agnes.  And  that  was  well,  for  if  she  had 
touched  Agnes  it  would  have  killed  her.  Then 
Agnes  said,  "  Who  are  you  ? "  And  the  little  girl 
said,  "Who  are  you?"  "I  am  Agnes,"  said 
Agnes ;  and  the  little  girl  said,  "  I  am  Agnes." 
Then  Agnes  thought  she  was  mocking  her,  and 
said,  "You  are  ugly;"  and  the  little  girl  said, 
"  You  are  ugly." 


A    PARABLE.  I 03 

Then  Agnes  lost  her  temper,  and  put  out  her 
hands  to  seize  the  little  girl  ;  but  lo  !  the  little 
girl  was  gone,  and  she  found  herself  tugging  at  her 
own  hair.  She  let  go,  and  there  was  the  little  girl 
again  !  Agnes  was  furious  now,  and  flew  at  her  to 
bite  her.  But  she  found  her  teeth  in  her  own  arm, 
and  the  little  girl  was  gone — only  to  return  again  ; 
and  each  time  she  came  back  she  was  tenfold 
uglier  than  before.  And  now  Agnes  hated  her 
with  her  whole  heart. 

The  moment  she  hated  her,  it  flashed  upon  her 
with  a  sickening  disgust  that  the  child  was  not 
another,  but  her  Self,  her  Somebody,  and  that  she 
was  now  shut  up  with  her  for  ever  and  ever — no 
more  for  one  moment  ever  to  be  alone.  In  her 
agony  of  despair,  sleep  descended,  and  she  slept. 

When  she  woke,  there  was  the  little  girl,  heed- 
less, ugly,  miserable,  staring  at  her  own  toes.  All 
at  once,  the  creature  began  to  smile,  but  with  such 


IO4  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


an  odious  self-satisfied  expression,  that  Agnes  felt 
ashamed  of  seeing  her.  Then  she  began  to  pat  her 
own  cheeks,  to  stroke  her  own  body,  and  examine 
her  finger-ends,  nodding  her  head  with  satisfaction. 
Agnes  felt  that  there  could  not  be  such  another 
hateful,  ape-like  creature,  and  at  the  same  time 
was  perfectly  aware  she  was  only  doing  outside  of 
her  what  she  herself  had  been  doing,  as  long  as  she 
could  remember,  inside  of  her. 

She  turned  sick  at  herself,  and  would  gladly 
have  been  put  out  of  existence,  but  for  three  days 
the  odious  companionship  went  on.  By  the  third 
day,  Agnes  was  not  merely  sick  but  ashamed  of 
the  life  she  had  hitherto  led,  was  despicable  in  her 
own  eyes,  and  astonished  that  she  had  never  seen 
the  truth  concerning  herself  before. 

The  next  morning  she  woke  in  the  arms  of  the 
wise  woman ;  the  horror  had  vanished  from  her 
sight,  and  two  heavenly  eyes  were  gazing  upon 


A    PARABLE.  I OS 

her.  She  wept  and  clung  to  her,  and  the  more  she 
clung,  the  more  tenderly  did  the  great  strong  arms 
close  around  her. 

When  she  had  lain  thus  for  a  while,  the  wise 
woman  carried  her  into  her  cottage,  and  washed 
her  in  the  little  well;  then  dressed  her  in  clean  gar- 
ments, and  gave  her  bread  and  milk.  When  she 
had  eaten  it,  she  called  her  to  her,  and  said  very 
solemnly, — 

"Agnes,  you  must  not  imagine  you  are  cured. 
That  you  are  ashamed  of  yourself  now  is  no  sign 
that  the  cause  for  such  shame  has  ceased.  In  new 
circumstances,  especially  after  you  have  done  well 
for  a  while,  you  will  be  in  danger  of  thinking  just 
as  much  of  yourself  as  before.  So  beware  of  your- 
self. I  am  going  from  home,  and  leave  you  in 
charge  of  the  house.  Do  just  as  I  tell  you  till  my 
return." 

She  then  crave  her  the  same  directions  she  had 


IOC)  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


formerly  given  Rosamond — with  this  difference, 
that  she  told  her  to  go  into  the  picture  hall  when 
she  pleased,  showing  her  the  entrance,  against 
which  the  clock  no  longer  stood — and  went  away, 
closing  the  door  behind  her. 


CHAPTER  VIII. 

A  S  soon  as  she  was  left  alone,  Agnes  set  to  work 
tidying  and  dusting  the  cottage,  made  up  the 
fire,  watered  the  bed,  and  cleaned  the  inside  of  the 
windows  :  the  wise  woman  herself  always  kept  the 
outside  of  them  clean.  When  she  had  done,  she 
found  her  dinner — of  the  same  sort  she  was  used  to 
at  home,  but  better — in  the  hole  of  the  wall.  When 
she  had  eaten  it,  she  went  to  look  at  the  pictures. 

By  this  time  her  old  disposition  had  begun  to 
rouse  again.  She  had  been  doing  her  duty,  and 
had  in  consequence  begun  again  to  think  herself 
Somebody.  However  strange  it  may  well  seem,  to 


IOS  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


do  one's  duty  will  make  any  one  conceited  who  only 
does  it  sometimes.  Those  who  do  it  always  would 
as  soon  think  of  being  conceited  of  eating  their 
dinner  as  of  doing  their  duty.  What  honest  boy 
would  pride  himself  on  not  picking  pockets  ?  A 
thief  who  was  trying  to  reform  would.  .  To  be  con- 
ceited of  doing  one's  duty  is  then  a  sign  of  how 
little  one  does  it,  and  how  little  one  sees  what  a 
contemptible  thing  it  is  not  to  do  it  Could  any 
but  a  low  creature  be  conceited  of  not  being  con- 
temptible ?  Until  our  duty  becomes  to  us  common 
as  breathing,  we  are  poor  creatures. 

So  Agnes  began  to  stroke  herself  once  more, 
forgetting  her  late  self-stroking  companion,  and 
never  reflecting  that  she  was  now  doing  what  she 
had  then  abhorred.  And  in  this  mood  she  went 
into  the  picture  gallery. 

The  first  picture  she  saw  represented  a  square  in 
a  great  city,  one  side  of  which  was  occupied  by  a 


A    PARABLE.  109 


splendid  marble  palace,  with  great  flights  of  broad 
steps  leading  up  to  the  door.  Between  it  and  the 
square  was  a  marble-paved  court  with  gates  of  brass, 
at  which  stood  sentries  in  gorgeous  uniforms,  and 
to  which  was  affixed  the  following  proclamation  in 
letters  of  gold,  large  enough  for  Agnes  to  read : — 

"  By  the  will  of  the  King,  from  this  time  until 
further  notice,  every  stray  child  found  in  tlic  realm 
shall  be  brought  without  a  moments  delay  to  the 
palace.  Whoever  shall  be  found  having  done  other- 
wise shall  straightway  lose  his  head  by  the  hand  of 
the  public  exccntioner." 

Agnes's  heart  beat  loud,  and  her  face  flushed. 

"  Can  there  be  such  a  city  in  the  world  ?"  she 
said  to  herself.  "If  I  only  knew  where  it  was,  I 
should  set  out  for  it  at  once.  There  would  be  the 
place  for  a  clever  girl  like  me  !  " 

Her  eyes  fell  on  the  picture  which  had  so  enticed 
Rosamond.  It  was  the  very  country  where  her 


no  THE  WISE  WOMAN. 


father  fed  his  flocks.  Just  round  the  shoulder  of 
the  hill  was  the  cottage  where  her  parents  lived, 
where  she  was  born  and  whence  she  had  been 
carried  by  the  beggar-woman. 

"  Ah  ! "  she  said,  "  they  didn't  know  me  there  ! 
They  little  thought  what  I  could  be  if  I  had  the 
chance.  If  I  were  but  in  this  good,  kind,  loving, 
generous  king's  palace,  I  should  soon  be  such  a 
great  lady  as  they  never  saw !  Then  they  would 
understand  what  a  good  little  girl  I  had  always 
been !  And  I  shouldn't  forget  my  poor  parents 
like  some  I  have  read  of.  /  would  be  generous.  / 
should  never  be  selfish  and  proud  like  girls  in 
story-books ! " 

As  she  said  this,  she  turned  her  back  with 
disdain  upon  the  picture  of  her  home,  and  setting 
herself  before  the  picture  of  the  palace,  stared  at  it 
with  wide  ambitious  eyes,  and  a  heart  whose  every 
beat  was  a  throb  of  arrogant  self-esteem. 


A    PARABLE.  1  I  I 

The  shepherd-child  was  now  worse  than  ever  the 
poor  princess  had  been.  For  the  wise  woman  had 
given  her  a  terrible  lesson,  one  of  which  the 
princess  was  not  capable,  and  she  had  known  what 
it  meant ;  yet  here  she  was  as  bad  as  ever,  therefore 
worse  than  before.  The  ugly  creature,  whose 
presence  had  made  her  so  miserable,  had  indeed 
crept  out  of  sight  and  mind  too — but  where  was 
she  ?  Nestling  in  her  very  heart,  where  most  of  all 
she  had  her  company,  and  least  of  all  could  sec 
her.  The  wise  woman  had  called  her  out  that 
Agnes  might  see  what  sort  of  creature  she  was 
herself;  but  now  she  was  snug  in  her  soul's 
bed  again,  and  she  did  not  even  suspect  she  was 
there. 

After  gazing  a  while  at  the  palace  picture, 
during  which  her  ambitious  pride  rose  and  rose, 
she  turned  yet  again  in  condescending  mood  and 
honoured  the  home  picture  with  one  stare  more. 


112  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


"What  a  poor  miserable  spot  it  is,  compared 
with  this  lordly  palace  ! "  she  said. 

But  presently  she  spied  something  in  it  she  had 
not  seen  before,  and  drew  nearer.  It  was  the  form 
of  a  little  girl,  building  a  bridge  of  stones  over  one 
of  the  hill-brooks. 

"Ah,  there  I  am  myself!"  she  said.  "That  is 
just  how  I  used  to  do. — No!"  she  resumed,  "it  is 
not  me.  That  snub-nosed  little  fright  could  never 
be  meant  for  me !  It  was  the  frock  that  made  me 
think  so.  But  it  is  a  picture  of  the  place.  I 
declare  I  can  see  the  smoke  of  the  cottage  rising 
from  behind  the  hill !  What  a  dull,  dirty,  insignifi- 
cant spot  it  is !  And  what  a  life  to  lead  there ! " 

She  turned  once  more  to  the  city  picture.  And 
now  a  strange  thing  took  place.  In  proportion  as 
the  other,  to  the  eyes  of  her  mind,  receded  into  the 
back-ground,  this,  to  her  present  bodily  eyes, 
appeared  to  come  forward  and  assume  reality.  At 


A    PARABLE.  113 

last,  after  it  had  been  in  this  way  growing  upon 
her  for  some  time,  she  gave  a  cry  of  conviction, 
and  said  aloud — 

"  I  do  believe  it  is  real !  That  frame  is  only  a 
trick  of  the  woman  to  make  me  fancy  it  a  picture, 
lest  I  should  go  and  make  my  fortune.  She  is  a 
witch,  the  ugly  old  creature  !  It  would  serve  her 
right  to  tell  the  king  and  have  her  punished  for  not 
taking  me  to  the  palace — one  of  his  poor  lost 
children  he  is  so  fond  of!  I  should  like  to  see  her 
ugly  old  head  cut  off.  Anyhow  I  will  try  my  luck 
without  asking  her  leave.  How  she  has  ill-used 
me!" 

But  at  that  moment  she  heard  the  voice  of  the 
wise  woman  calling,  "  Agnes  !"  and,  smoothing  her 
face,  she  tried  to  look  as  good  as  she  could,  and 
walked  back  into  the  cottage.  There  stood  the 
wise  woman,  looking  all  round  the  place  and 
.examining  her  work.  She  firccd  her  eyes  upon 

I 


114  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


Agnes  in  a  way  that  confused  her,  and  made  her 
cast  hers  down,  for  she  felt  as  if  she  were  reading 
her  thoughts.  The  wise  woman,  however,  asked 
no  questions,  but  began  to  talk  about  her  work,, 
approving  of  some  of  it,  which  filled  her  with 
arrogance,  and  showing  how  some  of  it  might  have 
been  done  better,  which  filled  her  with  resentment. 
But  the  wise  woman  seemed  to  take  no  care  of 
what  she  might  be  thinking,  and  went  straight  on 
with  her  lesson.  By  the  time  it  was  over,  the 
power  of  reading  thoughts  would  not  have  been 
necessary  to  a  knowledge  of  what  was  in  the  mind 
of  Agnes,  for  it  had  all  come  to  the  surface — that 
is,  up  into  her  face,  which  is  the  surface  of  the 
mind.  Ere  it  had  time  to  sink  down  again,  the 
wise  woman  caught  up  the  little  mirror  and  held  it 
before  her :  Agnes  saw  her  Somebody — the  very 
embodiment  of  miserable  conceit  and  ugly  ill- 
temper.  She  gave  such  a  scream  of  horror  that 


A    PARABLE.  115 

the  wise  woman  pitied  her,  and  laying  aside  the 
mirror,  took  her  upon  her  knees,  and  talked  to  her 
most  kindly  and  solemnly ;  in  particular  about  the 
necessity  of  destroying  the  ugly  things  that  come 
out  of  the  heart — so  ugly  that  they  make  the  very 
face  over  them  ugly  ^ilso. 

And  what  was  Agnes  doing  all  the  time  the  wise 
woman  was  talking  to  her  ?  Would  you  believe 
it  ? — instead  of  thinking  how  to  kill  the  ugly  things 
in  her  heart,  she  was  with  all  her  might  resolving 
to  be  more  careful  of  her  face,  that  is,  to  keep 
down  the  things  in  her  heart  so  that  they  should 
not  show  in  her  face ;  she  was  resolving  to  be  a 
hypocrite  as  well  as  a  self-worshipper.  Her  heart 
was  wormy,  and  the  worms  were  eating  very  fast 
at  it  now. 

Then  the  wise  woman  laid  her  gently  down 
upon  the  heather-bed,  and  she  fell  fast  asleep,  and 
had  an  awful  dream  about  her  Somebody. 


Il6  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


When  she  woke  in  the  morning,  instead  of 
getting  up  to  do  the  work  of  the  house,  she  lay 
thinking — to  evil  purpose.  In  place  of  taking  her 
dream  as  a  warning,  and  thinking  over  what  the 
wise  woman  had  said  the  night  before,  she 
communed  with  herself  in  this  fashion  : — 

"  If  I  stay  here  longer,  I  shall  be  miserable.  It 
is  nothing  better  than  slavery.  The  old  witch 
shows  me  horrible  things  in  the  day,  to  set  me 
dreaming  horrible  things  in  the  night  If  I  don't 
run  away,  that  frightful  blue  prison  and  the 
disgusting  girl  will  come  back,  and  I  shall  go  out 
of  my  mind.  How  I  do  wish  I  could  find  the  way 
to  the  good  king's  palace !  I  shall  go  and  look  at 
the  picture  again— if  it  be  a  picture— as  soon  as 
I've  got  my  clothes  on.  The  work  can  wait.  It's 
not  my  work.  It's  the  old  witch's,  and  she  ought 
to  do  it  herself." 

She  jumped  out  of  bed,   and   hurried   on  her 


A    PARABLE.  HJt 

clothes.  There  was  no  wise  woman  to  be  seen, 
and  she  hastened  into  the  hall.  There  was  the 
picture,  with  the  marble  palace,  and  the  procla- 
mation shining  in  letters  of  gold  upon  its  gates  of 
brass !  She  stood  before  it  and  gazed  and  gazed ; 
and  all  the  time  it  kept  growing  upon  her  in  some 
strange  way  until  at  last  she  was  fully  persuaded 
that  it  was  no  picture,  but  a  real  city,  square,  and 
marble  palace,  seen  through  a  framed  opening  in 
the  wall.  She  ran  up  to  the  frame,  stepped  over  it, 
felt  the  wind  blow  upon  her  cheek,  heard  the  sound 
of  a  closing  door  behind  her,  and  was  free.  Free 
was  she  ? — with  that  creature  inside  her  ? 

The  same  moment  a  terrible  storm  of  thunder 
and  lightning,  wind  and  rain,  came  on.  The 
uproar  was  appalling.  Agnes  threw  herself  upon 
the  ground,  hid  her  face  in  her  hands,  and  there 
lay  until  it  was  over.  As  soon  as  she  felt  the  sun 
shining  on  her,  she  rose.  There  was  the  city  far 


FlS  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


away  on  the  horizon  !  Without  once  turning  to 
take  a  farewell  look  at  the  place  she  was  leaving, 
she  set  off,  as  fast  as  her  feet  would  carry  her,  in 
the  direction  of  the  city.  So  eager  was  she  that 
again  and  again  she  fell,  but  only  to  get  up  and 
run  on  faster  than  before. 


CHAPTER  IX. 

'"F'HE  shepherdess  carried  Rosamond  home,  gave 
her  a  warm  bath  in  the  tub  in  which  she 
washed  her  linen,  made  her  some  bread-and-milk, 
and  after  she  had  eaten  it,  put  her  to  bed  in 
Agncs's  crib,  where  she  slept  all  the  rest  of  that 
day  and  all  the  following  night. 

\Yhcn  at  last  she  opened  her  eyes,  it  was  to  see 
around  her  a  far  poorer  cottage  than  the  one  she 
had  left — very  bare  and  uncomfortable  indeed,  she 
might  well  have  thought ;  but  she  had  come 
through  such  troubles  of  late,  in  the  way  of  hunger 
and  weariness  and  cold  and  fear,  that  she  was  not 


]2O  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


altogether  in  her  ordinary  mood  of  fault-finding, 
and  so  was  able  to  lie  enjoying  the  thought  that  at 
length  she  was  safe,  and  going  to  be  fed  and  kept 
warm.  The  idea  of  doing  anything  in  return  for 
shelter  and  food  and  clothes,  did  not,  however,  even 
cross  her  mind. 

But  the  shepherdess  was  one  of  that  plentiful 
number  who  can  be  wiser  concerning  other  women's 
children  than  concerning  their  own.  Such  will 
often  give  you  very  tolerable  hints  as  to  how  you 
ought  to  manage  your  children,  and  will  find  fault 
neatly  enough  with  the  system  you  are  trying  to 
carry  out ;  but  all  their  wisdom  goes  off  in  talking, 
and  there  is  none  left  for  doing  what  they  have 
themselves  said.  There  is  one  road  talk  never  finds, 
and  that  is  the  way  into  the  talker's  own  hands  and 
feet  And  such  never  seem  to  know  themselves — 
not  even  when  they  are  reading  about  themselves 
in  print.  Still,  not  being  specially  blinded  in  any 


A    PARABLE.  121 

direction  but  their  -own,  they  can  sometimes  even 
act  with  a  little  sense  towards  children  who  are  not 
theirs.  They  are  affected  with  a  sort  of  blindness 
like  that  which  renders  some  people  incapable  of 
seeing  except  sideways. 

She  came  up  to  the  bed,  looked  at  the  princess, 
and  saw  that  she  was  better.  But  she  did  not  like 
her  much.  There  was  no  mark  of  a  princess  about 
her,  and  never  had  been  since  she  began  to  run 
alone.  True,  hunger  had  brought  down  her  fat 
cheeks,  but  it  had  not  turned  down  her  impudent 
nose,  or  driven  the  sullcnness  and  greed  from  her 
mouth.  Nothing  but  the  wise  woman  could  do 
that — and  not  even  she,  without  the  aid  of  the 
princess  herself.  So  the  shepherdess  thought  what 
a  poor  substitute  she  had  got  for  her  own  lovely 
Agnes — who  was  in  fact  equally  repulsive,  only  in 
a  way  to  which  she  had  got  used  ;  for  the  sel- 
fishness in  her  love  had  blinded  her  to  the  thin 


122  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

pinched  nose  and  the  mean  self-satisfied  mouth. 
It  was  well  for  the  princess,  though,  sad  as  it  is  to 
say,  that  the  shepherdess  did  not  take  to  her,  for 
then  she  would  most  likely  have  only  done  her 
harm  instead  of  good. 

"  Now,  my  girl,"  sl\e  said,  "you  must  get  up  and 
do  something.  We  can't  keep  idle  folk  here." 

"  I'm  not  a  folk,"  said  Rosamond ;  "  I'm  a 
princess." 

"  A  pretty  princess — with  a  nose  like  that !  And 
all  in  rags  too  !  If  you  tell  such  stories,  I  shall 
soon  let  you  know  what  I  think  of  you." 

Rosamond  then  understood  that  the  mere  calling 
herself  a  princess,  without  having  anything  to  show 
for  it,  was  of  no  use.  She  obeyed  and  rose,  for  she 
was  hungry  ;  but  she  had  to  sweep  the  floor  ere  she 
had  anything  to  eat. 

The  shepherd  came  in  to  breakfast,  and  was 
kinder  than  his  wife.  He  took  her  up  in  his  arms 


A    PARABLE.  123 

and  would  have  kissed  her  ;  but  she  took  it  as  an 
insult  from  a  man  whose  hands  smelt  of  tar,  and 
kicked  and  screamed  with  rage.  The  poor  man, 
finding  he  had  made  a  mistake,  set  her  down  at 
once.  But  to  look  at  the  two,  one  might  well  have 
judged  it  condescension  rather .  than  rudeness  in 
such  a  man  to  kiss  such  a  child.  He  was  tall,  and 
almost  stately,  with  a  thoughtful  forehead,  bright 
eyes,  eagle  nose,  and  gentle  mouth  ;  while  the 
princess  was  such  as  I  have  described  her. 

Not  content  with  being  set  down  and  let  alone, 
she  continued  to  storm  and  scold  at  the  shepherd, 
crying  she  was  a  princess,  and  would  like  to  know 
what  right  he  had  to  touch  her !  But  he  only 
looked  down  upon  her  from  the  height  of  his  tall 
person  with  a  benignant  smile,  regarding  her  as  a 
spoiled  little  ape  whose  mother  had  flattered  her  by 
calling  her  a  princess. 

"  Turn  her  out  of  doors,  the  ungrateful  hussy  !  " 


124  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


cried  his  wife.  "With  your  bread  and  your  milk 
inside  her  ugly  body,  this  is  what  she  gives  you  for 
it !  Troth,  I'm  paid  for  carrying  home  such  an 
ill-bred  tramp  in  my  arms !  My  own  poor  angel 
Agnes  !  As  if  that  ill-tempered  toad  were  one 
hair  like  her !  " 

These  words  drove  the  princess  beside  herself ; 
for  those  who  are  most  given  to  abuse  can  least 
endure  it.  With  fists  and  feet  and  teeth,  as  was 
her  wont,  she  rushed  at  the  shepherdess,  whose 
hand  was  already  raised  to  deal  her  a  sound  box 
on  the  ear,  when  a  better  appointed  minister  of 
vengeance  suddenly  showed  himself.  Bounding  in 
at  the  cottage  door  came  one  of  the  sheep-dogs, 
who  was  called  Prince,  and  whom  I  shall  not  refer 
to  with  a  which,  because  he  was  a  very  superior 
animal  indeed,  even  for  a  sheep-dog,  which  is  the 
most  intelligent  of  dogs  :  he  flew  at  the  princess, 
knocked  her  down,  and  commenced  shaking  her  so 


A    PARABLE.  125 


violently  as  to  tear  her  miserable  clothes  to  pieces. 
Used,  however,  to  mouthing  little  lambs,  he  took 
care  not  to  hurt  her  much,  though  for  her  good  he 
left  her  a  blue  nip  or  two,  by  way  of  letting  her 
imagine  what  biting  might  be.  His  master, 
knowing  he  would  not  injure  her,  thought  it  better 
not  to  call  him  off,  and  in  half  a  minute  he  left  her 
of  his  own  accord,  and,  casting  a  glance  of  indignant 
rebuke  behind  him  as  he  went,  walked  slowly  to 
the  hearth,  where  he  laid  himself  down  with  his  tail 
towards  her.  She  rose,  terrified  almost  to  death, 
and  would  have  crept  again  into  Agnes's  crib  for 
refuge  ;  but  the  shepherdess  cried — 

"  Come,  come,  princess  !  I'll  have  no  skulking  to 
bed  in  the  good  daylight  Go  and  clean  your 
master's  Sunday  boots  there." 

"  I  will  not ! "  screamed  the  princess,  and  ran 
from  the  house. 

"  Prince  ! "  cried  the  shepherdess,  and  up  jumped 


126  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


the  dog,  and  looked  in  her  face,  wagging  his 
bushy  tail. 

"  Fetch  her  back,"  she  said,  pointing  to  the  door. 

With  two  or  three  bounds  Prince  caught  the 
princess,  again  threw  her  down,  and  taking  her  by 
her  clothes  dragged  her  back  into  the  cottage,  and 
dropped  her  at  his  mistress*  feet,  where  she  lay  like 
a  bundle  of  rags. 

"  Get  up,"  said  the  shepherdess. 

Rosamond  got  up,  as  pale  as  death. 

"  Go  and  clean  the  boots." 

"  I  don't  know  how." 

"  Go  and  try.  There  are  the  brushes,  and  yonder 
is  the  blacking  pot." 

Instructing  her  how  to  black  boots,  it  came  into 
the  thought  of  the  shepherdess  what  a  fine  thing  it 
would  be  if  she  could  teach  this  miserable  little 
wretch,  so  forsaken  and  ill-bred,  to  be  a  good, 
well-behaved,  respectable  child.  She  was  hardly 


A    PARAI3I.F..  127 

the  woman  to  do  it,  but  everything  well  meant  is  a 
help,  and  she  had  the  wisdom  to  beg  her  husband 
to  place  Prince  under  her  orders  for  a  while,  and 
not  take  him  to  the  hill  as  usual,  that  he  might  help 
her  in  getting  the  princess  into  order. 

When  her  husband  was  gone,  and  his  boots,  with 
the  aid  of  her  own  finishing  touches,  at  last  quite 
respectably  brushed,  the  shepherdess  told  the 
princess  that  she  might  go  and  play  for  a  while, 
only  she  must  not  go  out  of  sight  of  the  cottage 
door. 

The  princess  went  right  gladly,  with  the  firm 
intention,  however,  of  getting  out  of  sight  by  slow 
degrees,  and  then  at  once  taking  to  her  heels. 
But  no  sooner  was  she  over  the  threshold  than  the 
shepherdess  said  to  the  dog,  "  Watch  her ; "  and 
out  shot  Prince. 

The  moment  she  saw  him,  Rosamond  threw 
herself  on  her  face,  trembling  from  head  to  foot. 


128  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

But  the  dog  had  no  quarrel  with  her,  and  of  the 
violence  against  which  he  always  felt  bound  to 
protest  in  dog  fashion,  there  was  no  sign  in  the 
prostrate  shape  before  him  ;  so  he  poked  his  nose 
under  her,  turned  her  over,  and  began  licking  her 
face  and  hands.  When  she  saw  that  he  meant  to 
be  friendly,  her  love  for  animals,  which  had  had  no 
indulgence  for  a  long  time  now,  came  wide  awake, 
and  in  a  little  while  they  were  romping  and 
rushing  about,  the  best  friends  in  the  world. 

Having  thus  seen  one  enemy,  as  she  thought, 
changed  to  a  friend,  she  began  to  resume  her  former 
plan,  and  crept  cunningly  farther  and  farther.  At 
length  she  came  to  a  little  hollow,  and  instantly 
rolled  down  into  it.  Finding  then  that  she  was 
out  of  sight  of  the  cottage,  she  ran  off  at  full  speed. 

But  she  had  not  gone  more  than  a  dozen  paces 
when  she  heard  a  growling  rush  behind  her,  and 
the  next  instant  was  on  the  ground,  with  the  dog 


A    PARABLE.  I2Q 

standing  over  her,  showing  his  teeth,  and  flaming 
at  her  with  his  eyes.  She  threw  her  arms  round 
his  neck,  and  immediately  he  licked  her  face,  and 
let  her  get  up.  But  the  moment  she  would  have 
moved  a  step  farther  from  the  cottage,  there  he 
was  in  front  of  her,  growling  and  showing  his  teeth. 
She  saw  it  was  of  no  use,  and  went  back  with  him. 

Thus  was  the  princess  provided  with  a  dog  for  a 
private  tutor — just  the  right  sort  for  her. 

Presently  the  shepherdess  appeared  at  the  door 
and  called  her.  She  would  have  disregarded  the 
summons,  but  Prince  did  his  best  to  let  her  know 
that,  until  she  could  obey  herself,  she  must  obey 
him.  So  she  went  into  the  cottage,  and  there  the 
shepherdess  ordered  her  to  peel  the  potatoes  for 
dinner.  She  sulked  and  refused.  Here  Prince 
could  do  nothing  to  help  his  mistress,  but  she  had 
not  to  go  far  to  find  another  ally. 

"Very  well,  Miss  Princess!"  she  said  ;  "we  shall 
K 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


soon  see  how  you  like  to  go  without  when  dinner- 
time comes." 

Now,  the  princess  had  very  little  foresight,  and  the 
idea  of  future  hunger  would  have  moved  her  little  ; 
but  happily,  from  her  game  of  romps  with  Prince, 
she  had  begun  to  be  hungry  already,  and  so  the 
threat  had  force.  She  took  the  knife  and  began  to 
peel  the  potatoes. 

By  slow  degrees  the  princess  improved  a  little. 
A  few  more  outbreaks  of  passion,  and  a  few  more 
savage  attacks  from  Prince,  and  she  had  learned  to 
try  to  restrain  herself  when  she  felt  the  passion 
coming  on ;  while  a  few  dinnerless  afternoons 
entirely  opened  her  eyes  to  the  necessity  of  working 
in  order  to  eat.  Prince  was  her  first,  and  Hunger 
her  second  dog-counsellor. 

But  a  still  better  thing  was  that  she  soon  grew 
very  fond  of  Prince.  Towards  the  gaining  of  her 
affections,  he  had  three  advantages  :  first,  his  nature 


A    PARABLE.  IJJ 

was  inferior  to  hers  ;  next,  he  was  a  beast ;  and  last, 
she  was  afraid  of  him  ;  for  so  spoiled  was  she  that 
she  could  more  easily  love  what  was  below  than 
what  was  above  her,  and  a  beast  than  one  of  her 
own  kind,  and  indeed  could  hardly  have  ever  come 
to  love  anything  much  that  she  had  not  first  learned 
to  fear,  and  the  white  teeth  and  flaming  eyes  of  the 
angry  Prince  were  more  terrible  to  her  than  any- 
thing had  yet  been,  except  those  of  the  wolf,  which 
she  had  now  forgotten.  Then,  again,  he  was  such  a 
•delightful  playfellow,  that,  so  long  as  she  neither 
lost  her  temper,  nor  went  against  orders,  she  might 
do  almost  anything  she  pleased  with  him.  In  fact, 
such  was  his  influence  upon  her,  that  she  who  had 
scoffed  at  the  wisest  woman  in  the  whole  world,  and 
derided  the  wishes  of  her  own  father  and  mother, 
came  at  length  to  regard  this  dog  as  a  superior 
being,  and  to  look  up  to  him  as  well  as  love  him. 
And  this  was  best  of  all. 


132  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


The  improvement  upon  her,  in  the  course  of  a 
month,  was  plain.  She  had  quite  ceased  to  go  into 
passions,  and  had  actually  begun  to  take  a  little 
interest  in  her  work  and  try  to  do  it  well. 

Still,  the  change  was  mostly  an  outside  one.  I 
do  not  mean  that  she  was  pretending.  Indeed  she 
had  never  been  given  to  pretence  of  any  sort.  But ' 
the  change  was  not  in  her,  only  in  her  mood.  A 
second  change  of  circumstances  would  have  soon 
brought  a  second  change  of  behaviour;  and  so  long 
as  that  was  possible,  she  continued  the  same  sort 
of  person  she  had  always  been.  But  if  she  had 
not  gained  much,  a  trifle  had  been  gained  for  her : 
a  little  quietness  and  order  of  mind,  and  hence  a 
somewhat  greater  possibility  of  the  first  idea  of 
right  arising  in  it,  whereupon  she  would  begin  to 
see  what  a  wretched  creature  she  was,  and  must 
continue  until  she  herself  was  right. 

Meantime  the  wise  woman  had  been   watchincr 


A    PARABLE.  133 


her  when  she  least  fancied  it,  and  taking  note  of  the 
change  that  was  passing  upon  her.  Out  of  the 
large  eyes  of  a  gentle  sheep  she  had  been  watching 
her — a  sheep  that  puzzled  the  shepherd ;  for  every 
now  and  then  she  would  appear  in  his  flock,  and  he 
would  catch  sight  of  her  two  or  three  times  in  a 
day,  sometimes  for  days  together,  yet  he  never  saw 
her  when  he  looked  for  her,  and  never  when  he 
counted  the  flock  into  the  fold  at  night.  He  knew 
she  was  not  one  of  his  ;  but  where  could  she  come 
from,  and  where  could  she  go  to  ?  For  there  was 
no  other  flock  within  many  miles,  and  he  never 
could  get  near  enough  to  her  to  see  whether  or  not 
she  was  marked.  Nor  was  Prince  of  the  least  use 
to  him  for  the  unravelling  of  the  mystery;  for 
although,  as  often  as  he  told  him  to  fetch  the 
strange  sheep,  he  went  bounding  to  her  at  once,  it 
was  only  to  lie  down  at  her  feet. 

At  length,  however,  the  wise  woman  had  made 


134  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


up  her  mind,  and  after  that  the  strange  sheep  no 
longer  troubled  the  shepherd. 

As  Rosamond  improved,  the  shepherdess  grew 
kinder.  She  gave  her  all  Agnes's  clothes,  and 
began  to  treat  her  much  more  like  a  daughter. 
Hence  she  had  a  great  deal  of  liberty  after  the 
little  work  required  of  her  was  over,  and  would 
often  spend  hours  at  a  time  with  the  shepherd, 
watching  the  sheep  and  the  dogs,  and  learning  a 
little  from  seeing  how  Prince,  and  others  as  well, 
managed  their  charge — how  they  never  touched 
the  sheep  that  did  as  they  were  told  and  turned 
when  they  were  bid,  but  jumped  on  a  disobedient 
flock,  and  ran  along  their  backs,  biting,  and 
barking,  and  half  choking  themselves  with  mouth- 
fuls  of  their  wool. 

Then  also  she  would  play  with  the  brooks,  and 
learn  their  songs,  and  build  bridges  over  them. 
And  sometimes  she  would  be  seized  with  such 


A    PARABLE.  135 

delight  of  heart  that  she  would  spread  out  her 
arms  to  the  wind,  and  go  rushing  up  the  hill 
till  her  breath  left  her,  when  she  would  tumble 
down  in  the  heather  and  lie  there  till  it  came  back 
again. 

A  noticeable  change  had  by  this  time  passed 
also  on  her  countenance.  Her  coarse,  shapeless 
mouth  had  begun  to  show  a  glimmer  of  lines  and 
curves  about  it,  and  the  fat  had  not  returned  with 
the  roses  to  her  cheeks,  so  that  her  eyes  looked 
larger  than  before ;  while,  more  noteworthy  still, 
the  bridge  of  her  nose  had  grown  higher,  so  that  it 
was  less  of  the  impudent,  insignificant  thing  in- 
herited from  a  certain  great-grcat-great-grand- 
mother,  who  had  little  else  to  leave  her.  For  a 
long  time  it  had  fitted  her  very  well,  for  it  was  just 
like  her  ;  but  now  there  was  ground  for  alteration, 
and  already  the  granny  who  gave  it  her  would  not 
have  recognized  it.  It  was  growing  a  little  likcr 


136  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


Prince's,  and  Prince's  was  a  long,  perceptive, 
sagacious  nose — one  that  was  seldom  mistaken. 

One  day,  about  noon,  while  the  sheep  were 
mostly  lying  down,  and  the  shepherd,  having  left 
them  to  the  care  of  the  dogs,  was  himself  stretched 
under  the  shade  of  a  rock  a  little  way  apart,  and 
the  princess  sat  knitting,  with  Prince  at  her  feet, 
lying  in  wait  for  a  snap  at  a  great  fly — for  even  he 
had  his  follies — Rosamond  saw  a  poor  woman 
come  toiling  up  the  hill,  but  took  little  notice  of 
her  until  she  was  passing,  a  few  yards  off,  when  she 
heard  her  utter  the  dog's  name  in  a  low  voice. 

Immediately  on  the  summons,  Prince  started  up 
and  followed  her — with  hanging  head,  but  gently 
wagging  tail.  At  first  the  princess  thought  he  was 
merely  taking  observations,  and  consulting  with  his 
nose  whether  she  was  respectable  or  not,  but  she 
soon  saw  that  he  was  following  her  in  meek 
submission.  Then  she  sprung  to  her  feet  and 


A    PARABLE.  137 

cried,  "  Prince  !  Prince  !  "  But  Prince  only  turned 
his  head  and  gave  her  an  odd  look,  as  if  he  were 
trying  to  smile  and  could  not.  Then  the  princess 
grew  angry,  and  ran  after  him,  shouting,  "  Prince, 
come  here  directly."  Again  Prince  turned  his 
head,  but  this  time  to  growl  and  show  his  teeth. 

The  princess  flew  into  one  of  her  forgotten  rages, 
and  picking  up  a  stone,  flung  it  at  the  woman. 
Prince  turned  and  darted  at  her,  with  fury  in  his 
eyes,  and  his  white  teeth  gleaming.  At  the  awful 
sight  the  princess  turned  also,  and  would  have  fled,  ' 
but  he  was  upon  her  in  a  moment,  and  threw  her 
to  the  ground,  and  there  she  lay. 

It  was  evening  when  she  came  to  herself.  A 
cool  twilight  wind,  that  somehow  seemed  to  come 
all  the  way  from  the  stars,  was  blowing  upon  her. 
The  poor  woman  and  Prince,  the  shepherd  and  his 
sheep,  were  all  gone,  and  she  was  left  alone  with 
the  wind  upon  the  heather. 


138  THE    WISE    WOMAN'. 

She  felt  sad,  weak,  and,  perhaps  for  the  first  time 
in  her  life,  a  little  ashamed.  The  violence  of  which 
she  had  been  guilty  had  vanished  from  her  spirit, 
and  now  lay  in  her  memory  with  the  calm  morning 
behind  it,  while  in  front  the  quiet  dusky  night  was 
now  closing  in  the  loud  shame  betwixt  a  double 
peace.  Between  the  two  her  passion  looked  ugly. 
It  pained  her  to  remember.  She  felt  it  was  hateful, 
and  hers. 

But,  alas,  Prince  was  gone !  That  horrid  woman 
had  taken  him  away !  The  fury  rose  again  in  her 
heart,  and  raged — until  it  came  to  her  mind  how 
her  dear  Prince  would  have  flown  at  her  throat  if 
he  had  seen  her  in  such  a  passion.  The  memory 
calmed  her,  and  she  rose  and  went  home.  There, 
perhaps,  she  would  find  Prince,  for  surely  he  could 
never  have  been  such  a  silly  dog  as  to  go  away 
altogether  with  a  strange  woman  ! 

She  opened  the  door  and  went  in.      Dogs  were 


A    PARABLE.  139 


asleep  all  about  the  cottage,  it  seemed  to  her,  but 
nowhere  was  Prince.  She  crept  away  to  her  little 
bed,  and  cried  herself  asleep. 

In  the  morning  the  shepherd  and  shepherdess 
were  indeed  glad  to  find  she  had  come  home,  for 
they  thought  she  had  run  away. 

"  Where  is  Prince  ?  "  she  cried,  the  moment  she 
waked. 

"  His  mistress  has  taken  him,"  answered  the 
shepherd. 

"  Was  that  woman  his  mistress  ? " 

"  I  fancy  so.  He  followed  her  as  if  he  had 
known  her  all  his  life.  I  am  very  sorry  to  lose  him, 
though." 

The  poor  woman  had  gone  close  past  the  rock 
where  the  shepherd  lay.  He  saw  her  coming,  "and 
thought  of  the  strange  sheep  which  had  been 
feeding  beside  him  when  he  lay  down.  "Who  can 
she  be?"  he  said  to  himself;  but  when  he  noted 


I4D  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


how  Prince  followed  her,  without  even  looking  up 
at  him  as  he  passed,  he  remembered  how  Prince 
had  come  to  him.  And  this  was  how :  as  he  lay 
in  bed  one  fierce  winter  morning,  just  about  to  rise, 
he  heard  the  voice  of  a  woman  call  to  him  through 
the  storm,  "  Shepherd,  I  have  brought  you  a  dog. 
Be  good  to  him.  I  will  come  again  and  fetch  him 
away."  He  dressed  as  quickly  as  he  could,  and 
went  to  the  door.  It  was  half  snowed  up,  but  on 
the  top  of  the  white  mound  before  it  stood  Prince. 
And  now  he  had  gone  as  mysteriously  as  he  had 
come,  and  he  felt  sad. 

Rosamond  was  very  sorry  too,  and  hence  when 

»  f 

she  saw  the  looks  of  the  shepherd  and  shepherdess, 
she  was  able  to  understand  them.  And  she  tried 
for  a  while  to  behave  better  to  them  because  of 
their  sorrow.  So  the  loss  of  the  dog  brought  them 
all  nearer  to  each  other. 


u 


CHAPTER  X. 

A  FTER  the  thunder-storm  Agnes  did  not  meet 
with  a  single  obstruction  or  misadventure. 
Everybody  was  strangely  polite,  gave  her  whatever 
she  desired,  and  answered  her  questions,  but  asked 
none  in  return,  and  looked  all  the  time  as  if  her 
departure  would  be  a  relief.  They  were  afraid,  in 
fact,  from  her  appearance,  lest  she  should  tell  them 
that  she  was  lost,  when  they  would  be  bound, 
on  pain  of  public  execution,  to  take  her  to  the 
palace. 

But  no  sooner  had  she  entered  the  city  than 
she  saw  it  would  hardly  do  to  present  herself  as  a 


142  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


lost  child  at  the  palace  gates ;  for  how  were  the^' 
to  know  that  she  was  not  an  impostor,  especially 
since  she  really  was  one,  having  run  away  from  the 
wise  woman  ?  So  she  wandered  about  looking  at 
everything  until  she  was  tired,  and  bewildered  by 
the  noise  and  confusion  all  around  her.  The 
wearier  she  got,  the  more  was  she  pushed  in  every 
direction.  Having  been  used  to  a  whole  hill  to 
wander  upon,  she  was  very  awkward  in  the  crowded 
streets,  and  often  on  the  point  of  being  run  over  by 
the  horses,  which  seemed  to  her  to  be  going  every 
way  like  a  frightened  flock.  She  spoke  to  several 
persons,  but  no  one  stopped  to  answer  her  ;  and  at 
length  her  courage  giving  way,  she  felt  lost  indeed, 
and  began  to  cry.  A  soldier  saw  her,  and  asked 
what  was  the  matter. 

"  I've  nowhere  to  go  to,"  she  sobbed. 

"Where's  your  mother  ?  "  asked  the  soldier. 

"  I    don't   know,"    answered    Agnes.      "  I    was 


A    PARABLE.  143 


carried  off  by  an  old  woman,  who  then  went  away 
and  left  me.  I  don't  know  where  she  is,  or  where 
I  am  myself." 

"  Come,"  said  the  soldier,  "  this  is  a  case  for  his 
Majesty." 

So  saying  he  took  her  by  the  hand,  led  her  to 
the  palace,  and  begged  an  audience  of  the  king  and 
queen.  The  porter  glanced  at  Agnes,  immediately 
admitted  them,  and  showed  them  into  a  great 
splendid  room,  where  the  king  and  queen  sat  every 
day  to  review  lost  children,  in  the  hope  of  one  day 
thus  finding  their  Rosamond.  But  they  were  by 
this  time  beginning  to  get  tired  of  it.  The  moment 
they  cast  their  eyes  upon  Agnes,  the  queen  threw 
back  her  head,  threw  up  her  hands,  and  cried 
"  What  a  miserable,  conceited,  white-faced  little 
ape  ! "  and  the  king  turned  upon  the  soldier  in 
wrath,  and  cried,  forgetting  his  own  decree,  "What 
do  you  mean  by  bringing  such  a  dirty,  vulgar- 


144  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


looking,  pert  creature  into  my  palace  ?  The  dullest 
soldier  in  my  army  could  never  for  a  moment 
imagine  a  child  like  that,  one  hair's-breadth  like  the 
lovely  angel  we  lost  ? " 

"  I  humbly  beg  your  Majesty's  pardon,"  said  the 
soldier,  "  but  what  was  I  to  do  ?  There  stands 
your  Majesty's  proclamation  in  gold  letters  on  the 
brazen  gates  of  the  palace." 

"  I  shall  have  it  taken  down,"  said  the  king. 
"  Remove  the  child." 

"Please  your  Majesty,  what  am  I  to  do  with 
her  ? " 

"  Take  her  home  with  you." 

"  I  have  six  already,  sire,  and  do  not  want  her." 

"  Then  drop  her  where  you  picked  her  up." 

"  If  I  do,  sire,  some  one  else  will  find  her,  and 
bring  her  back  to  your  Majesties." 

"  That  will  never  do,"  said  the  king.  "  I  cannot 
bear  to  look  at  her." 


A    PARABLE.  145 

"  For  all  her  ugliness,"  said  the  queen,  "  she  is 
plainly  lost,  and  so  is  our  Rosamond." 

"  It  may  be  only  a  pretence,  to  get  into  the 
palace,"  said  the  king. 

"  Take  her  to  the  head  scullion,  soldier,"  said  the 
queen,  "and  tell  her  to  make  her  useful.  If  she 
should  find  out  she  has  been  pretending  to  be  lost, 
she  must  let  me  know." 

The  soldier  was  so  anxious  to  get  rid  of  her,  that 
he  caught  her  up  in  his  arms,  hurried  her  from  the 
room,  found  his  way  to  the  scullery,  and  gave  her, 
trembling  with  fear,  in  charge  to  the  head  maid, 
with  the  queen's  message. 

As  it  was  evident  that  the  queen  had  no  favour 
for  her,  the  servants  did  as  they  pleased  with  her, 
and  often  treated  her  harshly.  Not  one  amongst 
them  liked  her;  nor  was  it  any  wonder,  seeing  that, 
with  every  step  she  took  from  the  wise  woman's 
house,  she  had  grown  more  contemptible,  for  she 

L 


146  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

had  grown  more  conceited.  Every  civil  answer 
given  her,  she  attributed  to  the  impression  she 
made,  not  to  the  desire  to  get  rid  of  her ;  and  ever}' 
kindness,  to  approbation  of  her  looks  and  speech, 
instead  of  friendliness  to  a  lonely  child.  Hence  by 
this  time  she  was  twice  as  odious  as  before ;  for 
whoever  has  had  such  severe  treatment  as  the  wise 
woman  gave  her,  and  is  not  the  better  for  it,  always 
grows  worse  than  before.  They  drove  her  about,, 
boxed  her  ears  on  the  smallest  provocation,  laid 
everything  to  her  charge,  called  her  all  manner  of 
contemptuous  names,  jeered  and  scoffed  at  her 
awkwardnesses,  and  made  her  life  so  miserable  that 
she  was  in  a  fair  way  to  forget  everything  she  had 
learned,  and  know  nothing  but  how  to  clean  sauce- 
pans and  kettles. 

They  would  not  have  been  so  hard  upon  her, 
however,  but  for  her  irritating  behaviour.  She 
dared  not  refuse  to  do  as  she  was  told,  but  she 


A    PARABLE.  147 

« 

obeyed  now  with  a  purscd-up  mouth,  and  now 
with  a  contemptuous  smile.  The  only  thing  that 
sustained  her  was  her  constant  contriving  how  to 
get  out  of  the  painful  position  in  which  she  found 
herself.  There  is  but  one  true  way,  however,  of 
getting  out  of  any  position  we  may  be  in,  and  that 
is,  to  do  the  work  of  it  so  well  that  we  grow  fit  for 
*a  better :  I  need  not  say  this  was  not  the  plan 
upon  which  Agnes  was  cunning  enough  to  fix. 

She  had  soon  learned  from  the  talk  around  her 
the  reason  of  the  proclamation  which  had  brought 
her  hither. 

"  Was  the  lost  princess  so  very  beautiful  ? "  she- 
said  one  day  to  the  youngest  of  her  fellow-servants. 

"  Beautiful !  "  screamed  the  maid  ;  "she  was  just 
the  ugliest  little  toad  you  ever  set  eyes  upon." 

"What  was  she  like  ?  "  asked  Agnes. 

"She  was  about  your  size,  and  quite  as  ugly, 
only  not  in  the  same  way ;  for  she  had  red  checks. 


148  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


and  a  cocked  little  nose,  and  the  biggest,  ugliest 
mouth  you  ever  saw." 

Agnes  fell  a  thinking. 

"Is  there  a  picture  of  her  anywhere  in  the 
palace  ? "  she  asked. 

"  How  should  I  know  ?  You  can  ask  a  house- 
maid." 

Agnes  soon  learned  that  there  was  one,  and 
contrived  to  get  a  peep  of  it.  Then  she  was 
certain  of  what  she  had  suspected  from  the 
description  given  of  her,  namely,  that  she  was  the 
same  she  had  seen  in  the  picture  at  the  wise 
woman's  house.  The  conclusion  followed,  that  the 
lost  princess  must  be  staying  with  her  father  and 
mother,  for  assuredly  in  the  picture  she  wore  one  of 
her  frocks. 

She  went  to  the  head  scullion,  and,  with  humble 
manner  but  proud  heart,  begged  her  to  procure  for 
her  the  favour  of  a  word  with  the  queen. 


A    PARABLE. 


149 


"A  likely  thing  indeed!"  was  the  answer, 
accompanied  by  a  resounding  box  on  the  ear. 

She  tried  the  head  cook  next,  but  with  no  better 
success,  and  so  was  driven  to  her  meditations  again, 
the  result  of  which  was  that  she  began  to  drop 
hints  that  she  knew  something  about  the  princess. 
This  came  at  length  to  the  queen's  ears,  and  she 
sent  for  her. 

Absorbed  in  her  own  selfish  ambitions,  Agnes 
never  thought  of  the  risk  to  which  she  was 
about  to  expose  her  parents,  but  told  the  queen 
that  in  her  wanderings  she  had  caught  sight  of  just 
such  a  lovely  creature  as  she  described  the  princess, 
only  dressed  like  a  peasant — saying  that,  if  the 
king  would  permit  her  to  go  and  look  for  her,  she 
had  little  doubt  of  bringing  her  back  safe  and 
sound  within  a  few  weeks. 

But  although  she  spoke  the  truth,  she  had  such  a 
look  of  cunning  on  her  pinched  face  that  the  queen 


I5O  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

could  not  possibly  trust  her,  but  believed  that  she 
made  the  proposal  merely  to  get  away,  and  have 
money  given  her  for  her  journey.  Still  there  was  a 
chance,  and  she  would  not  say  anything  until  she 
had  consulted  the  king. 

Then  they  had  Agnes  up  before  the  lord 
chancellor,  who,  after  much  questioning  of  her, 
arrived  at  last,  he  thought,  at  some  notion  of  the 
part  of  the  country  described  by  her — that  was,  if 
she  spoke  the  truth,  which,  from  her  looks  and 
behaviour,  he  also  considered  entirely  doubtful. 
Thereupon  she  was  ordered  back  to  the  kitchen, 
and  a  band  of  soldiers,  under  a  clever  lawyer,  sent 
out  to  search  every  foot  of  the  supposed  region. 
They  were  commanded  not  to  return  until  they 
brought  with  them,  bound  hand  and  foot,  such  a 
shepherd-pair  as  that  of  which  they  received  a  full 
description. 

And  now  Agnes  was  worse  off  than  before.     For 


A    PARABLE.  15! 

to  her  other  miseries  was  added  the  fear  of  what 
would  befall  her  when  it  was  discovered  that  the 
persons  of  whom  they  were  in  quest,  and  whom  she 
was  certain  they  must  find,  were  her  own  father  and 
mother. 

By  this  time  the  king  and  queen  were  so  tired  of 
seeing  lost  children,  genuine  or  pretended — for  they 
cared  for  no  child  any  longer  than  there  seemed  a 
chance  of  its  turning  out  their  child — that,  with 
this  new  hope,  which,  however  poor  and  vague  at 
first,  soon  began  to  grow  upon  such  imaginations 
as  they  had,  they  commanded  the  proclamation  to 
be  taken  down  from  the  palace  gates,  and  directed 
the  various  sentries  to  admit  no  child  whatever, 
lost  or  found,  be  the  reason  or  pretence  what  it 
might,  until  further  orders. 

"I'm   sick   of  children!"   said  the  king  to  his 
secretary,  as  he  finished  dictating  the  direction. 


CHAPTER  XI. 

A  FTER  Prince  was  gone,  the  princess,  by  de- 
grees, fell  back  into  some  of  her  old  bad  ways, 
from  which  only  the  presence  of  the  dog,  not  her 
own  betterment,  had  kept  her.  She  never  grew 
nearly  so  selfish  again,  but  she  began  to  let  her 
angry  old  self  lift  up  its  head  once  more,  until  by 
and  by  she  grew  so  bad  that  the  sheperdess  de- 
clared she  should  not  stop  in  the  house  a  day 
longer,  for  she  was  quite. unendurable. 

"  It  is  all  very  well  for  you,  husband,"  she  said, 
"  for  you  haven't  her  all  day  about  you,  and  only 
see  the  best  of  her.  But  if  you  had  her  in  work 


A    PARABLE.  153 


instead  of  play  hours,  you  would  like  her  no  better 
than  I  do.  And  then  it's  not  her  ugly  passions 
only,  but  when  she's  in  one  of  her  tantrums,  its  im- 
possible to  get  any  work  out  of  her.  At  such 
times  she's  just  as  obstinate  as — as — as — " 

She  was  going  to  say  "as  Agnes,"  but  the 
feelings  of  a  mother  overcame  her,  and  she  could 
not  utter  the  words. 

"  In  fact,"  she  said  instead,  "  she  makes  my  life 
miserable." 

The  shepherd  felt  he  had  no  right  to  tell  his  wife 
she  must  submit  to  have  her  life  made  miserable, 
and  therefore,  although  he  was  really  much  at- 
tached to  Rosamond,  he  would  not  interfere ;  and 
the  sheperdess  told  her  she  must  look  out  for 
another  place. 

The  princess  was,  however,  this  much  better 
than  before,  even  in  respect  of  her  passions,  that 
they  were  not  quite  so  bad,  and  after  one  was  over, 


154  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


she  was  really  ashamed  of  it.  But  not  once,  ever 
since  the  departure  of  Prince,  had  she  tried  to 
check  the  rnsh  of  the  evil  temper  when  it  came 
upon  her.  She  hated  it  when  she  was  out  of  it, 
and  that  was  something ;  but  while  she  was  in  it, 
she  went  full  swing  with  it,  wherever  the  prince  of 
the  power  of  it  pleased  to  carry  her.  Nor  was  this 
all :  although  she  might  by  this  time  have  known 
well  enough  that  as  soon  as  she  was  out  of  it  she 
was  certain  to  be  ashamed  of  it,  she  would  yet 
justify  it  to  herself  with  twenty  different  arguments 
that  looked  very  good  at  the  time,  but  would  have 
looked  very  poor  indeed  afterwards,  if  then  she  had 
ever  remembered  them. 

She  was  not  sorry  to  leave  the  shepherd's  cot- 
tage, for  she  felt  certain  of  soon  finding  her  way 
back  to  her  father  and  mother ;  and  she  would, 
indeed,  have  set  out  long  before,  but  that  her  foot 
had  somehow  got  hurt  when  Prince  gave  her  his 


A    PARABLE.  155 

last  admonition,  and  she  had  never  since  been  able 
for  long  walks,  which  she  sometimes  blamed  as 
the  cause  of  her  temper  growing  worse.  But  if 
people  are  good-tempered  only  when  they  are 
comfortable,  what  thanks  have  they?  Her  foot 
was  now  much  better ;  and  as  soon  as  the  shep- 
herdess had  thus  spoken,  she  resolved  to  set  out 
at  once,  and  work  or  beg  her  way  home.  At  the 
moment  she  was  quite  unmindful  of  what  she  owed 
the  good  people,  and,  indeed,  was  as  yet  incapable 
of  understanding  a  tenth  part  of  her  obligation  to 
them.  So  she  bade  them  good-bye  without  a  tear, 
and  limped  her  way  down  the  hill,  leaving  the 
shepherdess  weeping,  and  the  shepherd  looking 
very  grave. 

When  she  reached  the  valley,  she  followed  the 
course  of  the  stream,  knowing  only  that  it  would 
lead  her  away  from  the  hill  where  the  sheep  fed, 
into  richer  lands  where  were  farms  and  cattle. 


156  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

Rounding  one  of  the  roots  of  the  hill,  she  saw 
before  her  a  poor  woman  walking  slowly  along  the 
road  with  a  burden  of  heather  upon  her  back,  and 
presently  passed  her,  but  had  gone  only  a  few 
paces  farther  when  she  heard  her  calling  after  her 
in  a  kind  old  voice— - 

"  Your  shoe-tie  is  loose,  my  child." 

But  Rosamond  was  growing  tired,  for  her  foot 
had  become  painful,  and  so  she  was  cross,  and 
neither  returned  answer,  nor  paid  heed  to  the 
warning.  For  when  we  are  cross,  all  our  other 
faults  grow  busy,  and  poke  up  their  ugly  heads 
like  maggots,  and  the  princess's  old  dislike  to 
doing  anything  that  came  to  her  with  the  least  air 
of  advice  about  it  returned  in  full  force. 

"  My  child,"  said  the  woman  again,  "  if  you  don't 
fasten  your  shoe-tie,  it  will  make  you  fall." 

"Mind  your  own  business,"  said  Rosamond, 
without  even  turning  her  head,  and  had  not  gone 


A    PARABLE.  157 


•more  than  three  steps  when  she  fell  flat  on  her  face 
on  the  path.  She  tried  to  get  up,  but  the  effort 
forced  from  her  a  scream,  for  she  had  sprained  the 
ankle  of  the  foot  that  was  already  lame. 

The  old  woman  was  by  her  side  instantly. 

"  Where  are  you  hurt,  child  ? "  she  asked,  throwing 
down  her  burden  and  kneeling  beside  her. 

"  Go  away,"  screamed  Rosamond.     "  You  made 
me  fall,  you  bad  woman ! " 

The  woman  made  no  reply,  but  began  to  feel 
her  joints,  and  soon  discovered  the  sprain.  Then, 
in  spite  of  Rosamond's  abuse,  and  the  violent 
pushes  and  even  kicks  she  gave  her,  she  took  the 
hurt  ankle  in  her  hands,  and  stroked  and  pressed 
it,  gently  kneading  it,  as  it  were,  with  her  thumbs, 
as  if  coaxing  every  particle  of  the  muscles  into  its 
right  place.  Nor  had  she  done  so  long  before  Rosa 
.mond  lay  still.  At  length  she  ceased,  and  said  : — 

"  Now,  my  child,  you  may  get  up." 


158  THE  WISE   WOMAN. 

"  I  can't  get  up,  and  I'm  not  your  child,"  cried 
Rosamond.  "  Go  away." 

Without  another  word  the  woman  left  her,  took 
up  her  burden,  and  continued  her  journey. 

In  a  little  while  Rosamond  tried  to  get  up,  and 
not  only  succeeded,  but  found  she  could  walk,  and, 
indeed,  presently  discovered  that  her  ankle  and  foot 
also  were  now  perfectly  well. 

"  I  wasn't  much  hurt  after  all,"  she  said  to  her- 
self, nor  sent  a  single  grateful  thought  after  the 
poor  woman,  whom  she  speedily  passed  once  more 
upon  the  road  without  even  a  greeting. 

Late  in  the  afternoon  she  came  to  a  spot  where 
the  path  divided  into  two,  and  was  taking  the  one 
she  liked  the  look  of  better,  when  she  started  at 
the  sound  of  the  poor  woman's  voice,  whom  she 
thought  she  had  left  far  behind,  again  calling  her. 
She  looked  round,  and  there  she  was,  toiling  under 
her  load  of  heather  as  before. 


A    PARABLE. 


159 


"You   are   taking  the   wrong   turn,   child,"  she 
cried. 

"  How  can  you  tell  that  ?"  said  Rosamond.  "  You 
know  nothing  about  where  I  want  to  go." 

"  I  know  that  road  will  take  you  where  you 
don't  want  to  go,"  said  the  woman. 

"  I  shall  know  when  I  get  there,  then,"  returned 
Rosamond,  "  and  no  thanks  to  you." 

She  set  off  running.  The  woman  took  the  other 
path,  and  was  soon  out  of  sight. 

By  and  by,  Rosamond  found  herself  in  the  midst 
of  a  peat-moss — a  flat,  lonely,  dismal,  black  country. 
She  thought,  however,  that  the  road  would  soon 
lead  her  across  to  the  other  side  of  it  among  the 
farms,  and  went  on  without  anxiety.  But  the 
stream,  which  had  hitherto  been  her  guide,  had  now 
vanished ;  and  when  it  began  to  grow  dark, 
Rosamond  found  that  she  could  no  longer  di-;- 
tinguish  the  track.  She  turned,  therefore,  but  only 


IDO  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

to  find  that  the  same  darkness  covered  it  behind 
as  well  as  before.  Still  she  made  the  attempt  to 
go  back  by  keeping  as  direct  a  line  as  she  could, 
for  the  path  was  straight  as  an  arrow.  But  she 
could  not  see  enough  even  to  start  her  in  a  line, 
and  she  had  not  gone  far  before  she  found  herself 
hemmed  in,  apparently  on  every  side,  by  ditches 
and  pools  of  black,  dismal,  slimy  water.  And  now 
it  was  so  dark  that  she  could  see  nothing  more 
than  the  gleam  of  a  bit  of  clear  sky  now  and  then 
in  the  water.  Again  and  again  she  stepped  knee- 
deep  in  black  mud,  and  once  tumbled  down  in  the 
shallow  edge  of  a  terrible  pool ;  after  which  she 
gave  up  the  attempt  to  escape  the  meshes  of  the 
watery  net,  stood  still,  and  began  to  cry  bitterly, 
despairingly.  She  saw  now  that  her  unreasonable 
anger  had  made  her  foolish  as  well  as  rude,  and 
felt  that  she  was  justly  punished  for  her  wickedness 
to  the  poor  woman  who  had  been  so  friendly  to 


A    PARABLE.  l6l 

her.  What  would  Prince  think  of  her,  if  he  knew  ? 
She  cast  herself  on  the  ground,  hungry,  and  cold, 
and  weary. 

Presently,  she  thought  she  saw  long  creatures 
come  heaving  out  of  the  black  pools.  A  toad 
jumped  upon  her,  and  she  shrieked,  and  sprang  to 
her  feet,  and  would  have  run  away  headlong,  when 
she  spied  in  the  distance  a  faint  glimmer.  She 
thought  it  was  a  Will-o'-the-wisp.  What  could  he 
be  after  ?  Was  he  looking  for  her  ?  She  dared 
not  run,  lest  he  should  see  and  pounce  upon  her. 
The  light  came  nearer,  and  grew  brighter  and 
larger.  Plainly,  the  little  fiend  was  looking  for  her 
— he  would  torment  her.  After  many  twistings  and 
turnings  among  the  pools,  it  can.e  straight  towards 
her,  and  she  would  have  shrieked,  but  that  terror 
made  her  dumb. 

It  came  nearer  and  nearer,  and  lo  !  it  was  borne 
by  a  dark  figure,  with  a  burden  on  its  back  :  it  was 

M 


1 62  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

the  poor  woman,  and  no  demon,  that  was  looking 
for  her!  She  gave  a  scream  of  joy,  fell  down 
weeping  at  her  feet,  and  clasped  her  knees.  Then 
the  poor  woman  threw  away  her  burden,  laid  down 
her  lantern,  took  the  princess  up  in  her  arms,  folded 
her  cloak  around  her,  and  having  taken  up  her 
lantern  again,  carried  her  slowly  and  carefully 
through  the  midst  of  the  black  pools,  winding 
hither  and  thither.  All  night  long  she  carried  her 
thus,  slowly  and  wearily,  until  at  length  the  dark- 
ness grew  a  little  thinner,  an  uncertain  hint  of 
light  came  from  the  east,  and  the  poor  woman, 
stopping  on  the  brow  of  a  little  hill,  opened  her 
cloak,  and  set  the  princess  down. 

"  I  can  carry  you  no  farther,"  she  said.  "  Sit 
there  on  the  grass  till  the  light  comes.  I  will 
stand  here  by  you." 

Rosamond  had  been  asleep.  Now  she  rubbed 
her  eyes  and  looked,  but  it  was  too  dark  to  see 


A    PARABLE.  163 

anything  more  than  that  there  was  a  sky  over  her 
head.  Slowly  the  light  grew,  until  she  could  see 
the  form  of  the  poor  woman  standing  in  front  of 
her ;  and  as  it  went  on  growing,  she  began  to 
think  she  had  seen  her  somewhere  before,  till  all 
at  once  she  thought  of  the  wise  woman,  and  saw  it 
must  be  she.  Then  she  was  so  ashamed  that  she 
bent  down  her  head,  and  could  look  at  her  no 
longer.  But  the  poor  woman  spoke,  and  the  voice 
was  that  of  the  wise  woman,  and  every  word  went 
deep  into  the  heart  of  the  princess. 

"  Rosamond,"  she  said,  "  all  this  time,  ever  since 
I  carried  you  from  your  father's  palace,  I  have 
been  doing  what  I  could  to  make  you  a  lovely 
creature  :  ask  yourself  how  far  I  have  succeeded." 

All  her  past  story,  since  she  found  herself  first 
under  the  wise  woman's  cloak,  arose,  and  glided 
past  the  inner  eyes  of  the  princess,  and  she 
saw,  and  in  a  measure  understood  it  all.  But 


164  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


she  sat  with  her  eyes  on  the  ground,  and  made  no 
sign. 

Then  said  the  wise  woman  : — 

"  Below  there  is  the  forest  which  surrounds  my 
house.  I  am  going  home.  If  you  please  to  come 
there  to  me,  I  will  help  you,  in  a  way  I  could  not 
do  now,  to  be  good  and  lovely.  I  will  wait  you 
there  all  day,  but  if  you  start  at  once,  you  may  be 
there  long  before  noon.  I  shall  have  your  break- 
fast waiting  for  you.  One  thing  more  :  the  beasts 
have  not  yet  all  gone  home  to  their  holes ;  but  I 
give  you  my  word,  not  one  will  touch  you  so  long 
as  you  keep  coming  nearer  to  my  house." 

She  ceased.  Rosamond  sat  waiting  to  hear 
something  more ;  but  nothing  came.  She  looked 
up ;  she  was  alone. 

Alone  once  more !  Always  being  left  alone, 
because  she  would  not  yield  to  what  was  right ! 
Oh,  how  safe  she  had  felt  under  the  wise  woman's 


A    PARABLE.  165 

cloak  !  She  had  indeed  been  good  to  her,  and  she 
had  in  return  behaved  like  one  of  the  hyaenas  of 
the  awful  wood !  What  a  wonderful  house  it  was 
she  lived  in !  And  again  all  her  own  story  came 
up  into  her  brain  from  her  repentant  heart 

"  Why  didn't  she  take  me  with  her  ? "  she  said. 
"  I  would  have  gone  gladly."  And  she  wept.  But 

her   own   conscience   told   her  that,   in   the    very 

i 
middle  of  her  shame  and  desire  to  be  good,  she  had 

returned  no  answer  to  the  words  of  the  wise 
woman ;  she  had  sat  like  a  tree-stump,  and  done 
nothing.  She  tried  to  say  there  was  nothing  to  be 
done ;  but  she  knew  at  once  that  she  could  have 
told  the  wise  woman  she  had  been  very  wicked, 
and  asked  her  to  take  her  with  her.  Now  there  was 
nothing  to  be  done. 

"Nothing  to  be  done!"  said  her  conscience. 
"  Cannot  you  rise,  and  w'alk  down  the  hill,  and 
through  the  wood  ? " 


l66  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


"  But  the  wild  beasts  ! " 

"  There  it  is !  You  don't  believe  the  wise  woman 
yet !  Did  she  not  tell  you  the  beasts  would  not 
touch  you  ? " 

"  But  they  are  so  horrid  ! " 

"  Yes,  they  are  ;  but  it  would  be  far  better  to  be 
eaten  up  alive  by  them  than  live  on  such  a  worth- 
less creature  as  you  are.  Why,  you're  not  fit  to  be 
thought  about  by  any  but  bad  ugly  creatures." 

This  was  how  herself  talked  to  her. 


CHAPTER  XII. 

A  LL  at  once  she  jumped  to  her  feet,  and  ran  at 
full  speed  down  the  hill  and  into  the  wood. 
She  heard  howlings  and  ycllings  on  all  sides  of  her, 
but  she  ran  straight  on,  as  near  as  she  could  judge. 
Her  spirits  rose  as  she  ran.  Suddenly  she  saw 
before  her,  in  the  dusk  of  the  thick  wood,  a  group 
of  some  dozen  wolves  and  hyaenas,  standing  all 
together  right  in  her  way,  with  their  green  eyes 
fixed  upon  her  staring.  She  faltered  one  step,  then 
bethought  her  of  what  the  wise  woman  had 
promised,  and  keeping  straight  on,  dashed  right 
into  the  middle  of  them.  They  fled  howling,  as  if 


1 68  THE    WISE   WOMAN. 


she  had  struck  them  with  fire.  She  was  no  more 
afraid  after  that,  and  ere  the  sun  was  up  she  was 
out  of  the  wood  and  upon  the  heath,  which  no  bad 
thing  could  step  upon  and  live.  With  the  first 
peep  of  the  sun  above  the  horizon,  she  saw  the 
little  cottage  before  her,  and  ran  as  fast  as  she 
could  run  towards  it.  When  she  came  near  it,  she 
saw  that  the  door  was  open,  and  ran  straight  into 
the  outstretched  arms  of  the  wise  woman. 

The  wise  woman  kissed  her  and  stroked  her  hair, 
set  her  down  by  the  fire,  and  gave  her  a  bowl  of 
bread  and  milk. 

When  she  had  eaten  it,  she  drew  her  before  her 
where  she  sat,  and  spoke  to  her  thus  : 

"  Rosamond,  if  you  would  be  a  blessed  creature 
instead  of  a  mere  wretch,  you  must  submit  to  be 
tried." 

"  Is  that  something  terrible  ? "  asked  the  princess, 
turning  white. 


A    PARABLE.  l6g 

"  No,  my  child  ;  but  it  is  something  very  difficult 
to  come  well  out  of.  Nobody  who  has  not  been 
tried  knows  how  difficult  it  is ;  but  whoever  has 
come  well  out  of  it,  and  those  who  do  not  overcome 
never  do  come  out  of  it,  always  looks  back  with 
horror,  not  on  what  she  has  come  through,  but  on 
the  very  idea  of  the  possibility  of  having  failed, 
and  being  still  the  same  miserable  creature  as 
before." 

"  You  will  tell  me  what  it  is  before  it  begins  ? " 
said  the  princess. 

"  I  will  not  tell  you  exactly.  But  I  will  tell  you 
some  things  to  help  you.  One  great  danger  is  that 
perhaps  you  will  think  you  are  in  it  before  it  has 
really  begun,  and  say  to  yourself,  '  Oh !  this  is 
really  nothing  to  me.  It  may  be  a  trial  to  some, 
but  for  me  I  am  sure  it  is  not  worth  mentioning.' 
And  then,  before  you  know,  it  will  be  upon  you, 
and  you  will  fail  utterly  and  shamefully." 


I7O  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


"  I  will  be  very,  very  careful,"  said  the  princess. 
"  Only  don't  let  me  be  frightened." 

"  You  shall  "not  be  frightened,  except  it  be  your 
own  doing.  You  are  already  a  brave  girl,  and 
there  is  no  occasion  to  try  you  more  that  way.  I 
saw  how  you  rushed  into  the  middle  of  the  ugly 
creatures ;  and  as  they  ran  from  you,  so  will  all 
kinds  of  evil  things,  as  long  as  you  keep  them 
outside  of  you,  and  do  not  open  the  cottage  of  your 
heart  to  let  them  in.  I  will  tell  you  something 
more  about  what  you  will  have  to  go  through. 

"  Nobody  can  be  a  real  princess — do  not  imagine 
you  have  yet  been  anything  more  than  a  mock  one 
— until  she  is  a  princess  over  herself,  that  is,  until, 
when  she  finds  herself  unwilling  to  do  the  thing 
that  is  right,  she  makes  herself  do  it.  So  long  as 
any  mood  she  is  in  makes  her  do  the  thing  she  will 
be  sorry  for  when  that  mood  is  over,  she  is  a  slavet 
and  no  princess.  A  princess  is  able  to  do  what  is 


A    PARABLE. 


right  even  should  she  unhappily  be  in  a  mood  that 
would  make  another  unable  to  do  it.  For  instance, 
if  you  should  be  cross  and  angry,  you  are  not  a 
whit  the  less  bound  to  be  just,  yes,  kind  even — a 
thing  most  difficult  in  such  a  mood — though  ease 
itself  in  a  good  mood,  loving  and  sweet.  Whoever 
does  what  she  is  bound  to  do,  be  she  the  dirtiest 
little  girl  in  the  street,  is  a  princess,  worshipful, 
honourable.  Nay,  more ;  her  might  goes  farther 
than  she  could  send  it,  for  if  she  act  so,  the  evil 
mood  will  wither  and  die,  and  leave  her  loving  and 
clean.  Do  you  understand  me,  dear  Rosamond  ? " 

As  she  spoke,  the  wise  woman  laid  her  hand  on 
her  head,  and  looked — oh,  so  lovingly! — into  her 
eyes. 

"  I  am  not  sure,"  said  the  princess,  humbly. 

"  Perhaps  you  will  understand  me  better  if  I  say 
it  just  comes  to  this,  that  you  must  not  do  what  is 
wrong,  however  much  you  arc  inclined  to  do  it,  and 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


you  must  do  what  is  right,  however  much  you  are 
disinclined  to  do  it." 

"  I  understand  that,"  said  the  princess. 

"I  am  going,  then,  to  put  you  in  one  of  the 
mood-chambers  of  which  I  have  many  in  the  house. 
Its  mood  will  come  upon  you,  and  you  will  have  to 
deal  with  it." 

She  rose  and  took  her  by  the  hand.  The  princess 
trembled  a  little,  but  never  thought  of  resisting. 

The  wise  woman  led  her  into  the  great  hall  with 
the  pictures,  and  through  a  door  at  the  farther  end, 
opening  upon  another  large  hall,  which  was 
circular,  and  had  doors  close  to  each  other  all 
round  it.  Of  these  she  opened  one,  pushed  the 
princess  gently  in,  and  closed  it  behind  her. 

The  princess  found  herself  in  her  old  nursery. 
Her  little  white  rabbit  came  to  meet  her  in  a 
lumping  canter  as  if  his  back  were  going  to  tumble 
over  his  head.  Her  nurse,  in  her  rocking-chair  by 


A    PARABLE.  173 


the  chimney  corner,  sat  just  as  she  had  used.  The 
fire  burned  brightly,  and  on  the  table  were  many  of 
her  wonderful  toys,  on  which,  however,  she  now 
looked  with  some  contempt.  Her  nurse  did  not 
seem  at  all  surprised  to  see  her,  any  more  than  if 
the  princess  had  but  just  gone  from  the  room  and 
returned  again. 

"  Oh  !  how  different  I  am  from  what  I  used  to 
be  ! "  thought  the  princess  to  herself,  looking  from 
her  toys  to  her  nurse.  "  The  wise  woman  has  done 
me  so  much  good  already!  I  will  go  and  see 
mamma  at  once,  and  tell  her  I  am  very  glad  to  be 
at  home  again,  and  very  sorry  I  was  so  naughty." 

She  went  towards  the  door. 

"Your  queen-mamma,  princess,  cannot  see  you 
now,"  said  her  nurse. 

"  I  have  yet  to  learn  that  it  is  my  part  to  take 
orders  from  a  servant,"  said  the  princess,  with 
temper  and  dignity. 


174  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

"I  beg  your  pardon,  princess."  returned  her 
liurse,  politely ;  "  but  it  is  my  duty  to  tell  you  that 
your  queen-mamma  is  at  this  moment  engaged. 
She  is  alone  with  her  most  intimate  friend,  the 
Princess  of  the  Frozen  Regions." 

"I  shall  see  for  myself,"  returned  the  princess, 
bridling,  and  walked  to  the  door. 

Now  little  bunny,  leap-frogging  near  the  door, 
happened  that  moment  to  get  about  her  feet,  just 
.as  she  was  going  to  open  it,  so  that  she  tripped  and 
fell  against  it,  striking  her  forehead  a  good  blow. 
She  caught  up  the  rabbit  in  a  rage,  and,  crying,  "  It 
is  all  your  fault,  you  ugly  old  wretch ! "  threw  it 
with  violence  in  her  nurse's  face. 

Her  nurse  caught  the  rabbit,  and  held  it  to  her 
face,  as  if  seeking  to  sooth  its  fright.  But  the 
rabbit  looked  very  limp  and  odd,  and,  to  her 
amazement,  Rosamond  presently  saw  that  the 
thing  was  no  rabbit,  but  a  pocket-handkerchief. 


A    PARABLE.  175 

The  next  moment  she  removed  it  from  her  face, 
and  Rosamond  beheld — not  her  nurse,  but  the  wise* 
woman — standing  on   her  own  hearth,  while  she 
herself  stood  by  the  door  leading  from  the  cottage 
into  the  hall. 

"First    trial   a    failure,"   said   the  wise  woman 
quietly. 

Overcome  with  shame,  Rosamond  ran  to  her,  fell 
down  on  her  knees,  and  hid  her  face  in  her  dress. 

"  Need  I  say  anything  ? "  said  the  wise  woman, 
stroking  her  hair. 

"  No,  no,"  cried  the  princess.     "  I  am  horrid." 

"  You  know  now  the  kind  of  thing  you  have  to 
meet :  are  you  ready  to  try  again  ? " 

"May  I  try  again  ?"  cried  the  princess,  jumping  up. 
"  I'm  ready.     I  do  not  think  I  shall  fail  this  time." 

"  The  trial  will  be  harder." 

Rosamond  drew  in  her  breath,  and  set  her  teeth. 
The  wise  woman  looked  at  her  pitifully,  but  took 


176  THE   WISE    WOMAN. 

her  by  the  hand,  led  her  to  the  round  hall,  opened 
the  same  door,  and  closed  it  after  her. 

The  princess  expected  to  find  herself  again  in 
the  nursery,  but  in  the  wise  woman's  house  no  one 
ever  has  the  same  trial  twice.  She  was  in  a 
beautiful  garden,  full  of  blossoming  trees  and  the 
loveliest  roses  and  lilies.  A  lake  was  in  the  middle 
of  it,  with  a  tiny  boat.  So  delightful  was  it  that 
Rosamond  forgot  all  about  how  or  why  she  had 
come  there,  and  lost  herself  in  the  joy  of  the 
flowers  and  the  trees  and  the  water.  Presently 
came  the  shout  of  a  child,  merry  and  glad,  and 
from  a  clump  of  tulip-trees  rushed  a  lovely  little 
boy,  with  his  arms  stretched  out  to  her.  She  was 
charmed  at  the  sight,  ran  to  meet  him,  caught  him 
up  in  her  arms,  kissed  him,  and  could  hardly  let 
him  go  again.  But  the  moment  she  set  him  down 
he  ran  from  her  towards  the  lake,  looking  back  as 
he  ran,  and  crying  "  Come,  come." 


A    PARABLE.  I  77 

She  followed.  He  made  straight  for  the  boat, 
clambered  into  it,  and  held  out  his  hand  to  help 
her  in.  Then  he  caught  up  the  little  boat-hook, 
and  pushed  away  from  the  shore  :  there  was  a  great 
white  flower  floating  a  few  yards  off,  and  that  was 
the  little  fellow's  goal.  But,  alas !  no  sooner  had 
Rosamond  caught  sight  of  it,  huge  and  glowing  as 
a  harvest  moon,  than  she  felt  a  great  desire  to  have 
it  herself.  The  boy,  however,  was  in  the  bows  of 
the  boat,  and  caught  it  first.  It  had  a  long  stem, 
reaching  down  to  the  bottom  of  the  water,  and  for 
a  moment  he  tugged  at  it  in  vain,  but  at  last  it 
gave  way  so  suddenly,  that  he  tumbled  back  with 
the  flower  into  the  bottom  of  the  boat.  Then 
Rosamond,  almost  wild  at  the  danger  it  was  in  as 
he  struggled  to  rise,  hurried  to  save  it,  but  somehow 
between  them  it  came  in  pieces,  and  all  its  petals 
of  fretted  silver  were  scattered  about  the  boat. 
When  the  boy  got  up,  and  saw  the  ruin  his  com- 
N 


178  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


panion  had  occasioned,  he  burst  into  tears,  and 
having  the  long  stalk  of  the  flower  still  in  his  hand, 
struck  her  with  it  across  the  face.  It  did  not  hurt 
her  much,  for  he  was  a  very  little  fellow,  but  it  was 
wet  and  slimy.  She  tumbled  rather  than  rushed 
at  him,  seized  him  in  her  arms,  tore  him  from  his 
frightened  grasp,  and  flung  him  into  the  water. 
His  head  struck  on  the  boat  as  he  fell,  and  he  sank 
at  once  to  the  bottom,  where  he  lay  looking  up  at 
her  with  white  face  and  open  eyes. 

The  moment  she  saw  the  consequences  of  her 
deed  she  was  filled  with  horrible  dismay.  She 
tried  hard  to  reach  down  to  him  through  the  water, 
but  it  was  far  deeper  than  it  looked,  and  she  could 
not.  Neither  could  she  get  her  eyes  to  leave  the 
white  face  :  its  eyes  fascinated  and  fixed  hers ;  and 
there  she  lay  leaning  over  the  boat  and  staring  at 
the  death  she  had  made.  But  a  voice  crying, 
"Ally  !  Ally!"  shot  to  her  heart,  and,  springing  to 


A    PARABLE. 


'79 


her  feet  she  saw  a  lovely  lady  come  running  down 
the  grass  to  the  brink  of  the  water  with  her  hair 
flying  about  her  head. 

"  Where  is  my  Ally  ? "  she  shrieked. 

But  Rosamond  could  not  answer,  and  only  stared 
at  the  lady,  as  she  had  before  stared  at  her  drowned 
boy. 

Then  the  lady  caught  sight  of  the  dead  thing  at 
the  bottom  of  the  water,  and  rushed  in,  and,  plung- 
ing down,  struggled  and  groped  until  she  reached 
it.  Then  she  rose  and  stood  up  with  the  dead 
body  of  her  little  son  in  her  arms,  his  head  hanging 
back,  and  the  water  streaming  from  him. 

"  See  what  you  have  made  of  him,  Rosamond  !  " 
she  said,  holding  the  body  out  to  her ;  "and  this  is 
your  second  trial,  and  also  a  failure." 

The  dead  child  melted  away  from  her  arms,  and 
there  she  stood,  the  wise  woman,  on  her  own 
hearth,  while  Rosamond  found  herself  beside  the 


I  SO  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

little  well  on  the  floor  of  the  cottage,  with  one  arm 
wet  up  to  the  shoulder.  She  threw  herself  on  the 
heather-bed  and  wept  from  relief  and  vexation 
both. 

The  wise  woman  walked  out  of  the  cottage,  shut 
the  door,  and  left  her  alone.  Rosamond  was 
sobbing,  so  that  she  did  not  hear  her  go.  When, 
at  length  she  looked  up,  and  saw  that  the  wise 
woman  was  gone,  her  misery  returned  afresh  and 
tenfold,  and  she  wept  and  wailed.  The  hours 
passed,  the  shadows  of  evening  began  to  fall,  and 
the  wise  woman  entered 


CHAPTER  XIII. 

C  HE  went  straight  to  the  bed,  and,  taking  Rosa- 
mond in  her  arms,  sat  down  with  her  by  the  fire. 

"  My  poor  child  !  "  she  said.  -  "  Two  terrible 
failures !  And  the  more  the  harder !  They  get 
stronger  and  stronger.  What  is  to  be  done  ?  " 

"  Couldn't  you  help  me?"  said  Rosamond  pitc- 
ously. 

"  Perhaps  I  could,  no\v  you  ask  me,"  answered 
the  wise  woman.  "  When  you  are  ready  to  try 
again,  we  shall  see." 

"  I  am  very  tired  of  myself,"  said  the  princess. 
"  But  I  can't  rest  till  I  try  again." 


1 82  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


"  That  is  the  only  way  to  get  rid  of  your  weary, 
shadowy  self,  and  find  your  strong,  true  self. 
Come,  my  child  ;  I  will  help  you  all  I  can,  for  now 
I  can  help  you." 

Yet  again  she  led  her  to  the  same  door,  and 
seemed  to  the  princess  to  send  her  yet  again  alone 
into  the  room.  She  was  in  a  forest,  a  place  half 
wild,  half  tended.  The  trees  were  grand,  and  full 
of  the  loveliest  birds,  of  all  glowing  gleaming,  and 
radiant  colours,  which,  unlike  the  brilliant  birds  we 
know  in  our  world,  sang  deliciously,  every  one 
according  to  his  colour.  The  trees  were  not  at  all 
crowded,  but  their  leaves  were  so  thick,  and  their 
boughs  spread  so  far,  that  it  was  only  here  and 
there  a  sunbeam  could  get  straight  through.  All 
the  gentle  creatures  of  a  forest  were  there,  but  no 
creatures  that  killed,  not  even  a  weasel  to  kill  the 
rabbits,  or  a  beetle  to  eat  the  snails  out  of  their 
striped  shells.  As  to  the  butterflies,  words  would 


A    PARABLE.  183 

but  wrong  them  if  they  tried  to  tell  how  gorgeous 
they  were.  The  princess's  delight  was  so  great 
that  she  neither  laughed  nor  ran,  but  walked  about 
with  a  solemn  countenance  and  stately  step. 

"  But  where  are  the  flowers?  "  she  said  to  herself 
at  length. 

They  were  nowhere.  Neither  on  the  high  trees, 
nor  on  the  few  shrubs  that  grew  here  and  there 

amongst  them,  were  there  any  blossoms ;  and  in 
the  grass  that  grew  everywhere  there  was  not  a 
single  flower  to  be  seen. 

"  Ah,  well ! "  said  Rosamond  again  to  herself, 
"where  all  the  birds  and  butterflies  are  living 
flowers,  we  can  do  without  the  other  sort." 

Still  she  could  not  help  feeling  that  flowers  were 
wanted  to  make  the  beauty  of  the  forest  complete. 

Suddenly  she  came  out  on  a  little  open  glade  ; 
and  there,  on  the  root  of  a  great  oak,  sat  the 
loveliest  little  girl,  with  her  lap  full  of  flowers  of  all 


184  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


colours,  but  of  such  kinds  as  Rosamond  had  never 
before  seen.  She  was  playing  with  them — burying 
her  hands  in  them,  tumbling  them  about,  and  every 
now  and  then  picking  one  from  the  rest,  and  throw- 
ing it  away.  All  the  time  she  never  smiled,  except 
with  her  eyes,  which  were  as  full  as  they  could  hold 
of  the  laughter  of  the  spirit — a  laughter  which  in 
this  world  is  never  heard,  only  sets  the  eyes  alight 
with  a  liquid  shining.  Rosamond  drew  nearer,  for 
the  wonderful  creature  would  have  drawn  a  tiger 
to  her  side,  and  tamed  him  on  the  way.  A  few 
yards  from  her,  she  came  upon  one  of  her  cast- 
away flowers  and  stooped  to  pick  it  up,  as  well  she 
might  where  none  grew  save  in  her  own  longing. 
But  to  her  amazement  she  found,  instead  of  a 
flower  thrown  away  to  wither,  one  fast  rooted  and 
quite  at  home.  She  left  it,  and  went  to  another ; 
but  it  also  was  fast  in  the  soil,  and  growing  com- 
fortably in  the  warm  grass.  What  could  it  mean  ? 


A    PARABLE.  185 

One  after  another  she  tried,  until  at  length  she  was 
satisfied  that  it  was  the  same  with  every  flower  the 
little  girl  threw  from  her  lap. 

She  watched  then  until  she  saw  her  throw  one, 
and  instantly  bounded  to  the  spot.  But  the  flower 
had  been  quicker  than  she  :  there  it  grew,  fast  fixed 
in  the  earth,  and,  she  thought,  looked  at  her 
roguishly.  Something  evil  moved  in  her,  and  she 
plucked  it 

"  Don't !  don't !  "  cried  the  child.  "  My  flowers 
cannot  live  in  your  hands." 

Rosamond  looked  at  the  flower.  It  was  withered 
already.  She  threw  it  from  her,  offended.  The 
child  rose,  with  difficulty  keeping  her  lapful  to- 
gether, picked  it  up,  carried  it  back,  sat  down  again, 
spoke  to  it,  kissed  it,  sang  to  it — oh !  such  a  sweet, 
childish  little  song! — the  princess  never  could  recall 
a  word  of  it— and  threw  it  away.  Up  rose  its  little 
head,  and  there  it  was,  busy  growing  again  ! 


THK    WISE    WOMAN. 


Rosamond's  bad  temper  soon  gave  way  :  the 
beauty  and  sweetness  of  the  child  had  overcome  it ; 
and,  anxious  to  make  friends  with  her,  she  drew 
near,  and  said  : 

"  Won't  you  give  me  a  little  flower,  please,  you 
beautiful  child  ? " 

"  There  they  are;  they  are  all  for  you,"  answered 
the  child,  pointing  with  her  outstretched  arm  and 
forefinger  all  round. 

"  But  you  told  me,  a  minute  ago,  not  to  touch 
them." 

"  Yes,  indeed,  I  did." 

"  They  can't  be  mine,  if  I'm  not  to  touch  them." 

"  If,  to  call  them  yours,  you  must  kill  them,  then 
they  are  not  yours,  and  never,  never  can  be  yours. 
They  are  nobody's  when  they  are  dead." 

"  But  you  don't  kill  them." 

"  I  don't  pull  them  ;  I  throw  them  away.  I  live 
them." 


A    PARABLE.  187 

"  How  is  it  that  you  make  them  grow  ?  " 

"  I  say,  '  You  darling ! '  and  throw  it  away,  and 
there  it  is." 

"  Where  do  you  get  them  ? " 

"  In  my  lap." 

"  I  wish  you  would  let  me  throw  one  away." 

"  Have  you  got  any  in  your  lap  ?     Let  me  sec." 

"  No  ;  I  have  none." 

"  Then  you  can't  throw  one  away,  if  you  haven't 
got  one." 

"You  are  mocking  me!"  cried  the  princess. 

"  I  am  not  mocking  you,"  said  the  child,  looking 
her  full  in  the  face,  with  reproach  in  her  large  blue 
eyes. 

"  Oh,  that's  where  the  flowers  come  from  ! "  said 
the  princess  to  herself,  the  moment  she  saw  them, 
hardly  knowing  what  she  meant. 

Then  the  child  rose  as  if  hurt,  and  quickly  threw 
iway  all  the  flowers  she  had  in  her  lap,  but  one  by 


1 88  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


one,  and  without  any  sign  of  anger.  When  they 
were  all  gone,  she  stood  a  moment,  and  then,  in  a 
kind  of  chanting  cry,  called,  two  or  three  times, 
"Peggy!  Peggy!  Pc-gy!" 

A  low,  glad  cry,  like  the  whinny  of  a  horse, 
answered,  and,  presently,  out  of  the  wood  on  the 
opposite  side  of  the  glade,  came  gently  trotting  the 
loveliest  little  snow-white  pony,  with  great  shining 
blue  wings,  half-lifted  from  his  shoulders.  Straight 
towards  the  little  girl,  neither  hurrying  nor  linger- 
ing, he  trotted  with  light  elastic  tread. 

Rosamond's  love  for  animals  broke  into  a  perfect 
passion  of  delight  at  the  vision.  She  rushed  to 
meet  the  pony  with  such  haste,  that,  although 
clearly  the  best  trained  animal  under  the  sun,  he 
started  back,  plunged,  reared,  and  struck  out  with 
his  fore  feet  ere  he  had  time  to  observe  what  sort  of 
a  creature  it  was  that  had  so  startled  him.  When 
he  perceived  it  was  a  little  girl,  he  dropped  instantly 


A    PARABLE.  189 

upon  all-fours,  and  content  with  avoiding  her,  re- 
sumed his  quiet  trot  in  the  direction  of  his  mistress. 
Rosamond  stood  gazing  after  him  in  miserable  dis- 
appointment. 

When  he  reached  the  child,  he  laid  his  head 
on  her  shoulder,  and  she  put  her  arm  up  round 
his  neck ;  and  after  she  had  talked  to  him  a 
little,  he  turned  and  came  trotting  back  to  the 
princess. 

Almost  beside  herself  with  joy,  she  began  caress- 
ing him  in  the  rough  way  which,  notwithstanding 
her  love  for  them,  she  was  in  the  habit  of  using 
with  animals ;  and  she  was  not  gentle  enough,  in 
herself  even,  to  see  that  he  did  not  like  it,  and  was 
only  putting  up  with  it  for  the  sake  of  his  mistress. 
But  when,  that  she  might  jump  upon  his  back,  she 
laid  hold  of  one  of  his  wings,  and  ruffled  some  of 
the  blue  feathers,  he  wheeled  suddenly  about,  gave 
his  long  tail  a  sharp  whisk  which  threw  her  flat  on 


IQO  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


the  grass,  and,  trotting  back  to  his  mistress,  bent 
down  his  head  before  her  as  if  asking  excuse  for 
ridding  himself  of  the  unbearable. 

The  princess  was  furious.  She  had  forgotten  all 
her  past  life  up  to  the  time  when  she  first  saw  the 
child  :  her  beauty  had  made  her  forget,  and  yet  she 
was  now  on  the  very  borders  of  hating  her.  What 
she  might  have'  done,  or  rather  tried  to  do,  had  not 
Peggy's  tail  struck  her  down  with  such  force  that 
for  a  moment  she  could  not  rise,  I  cannot  tell. 

But  while  she  lay  half-stunned,  her  eyes  fell  on  a 
little  flower  just  under  them.  It  stared  up  in  her 
face  like  the  living  thing  it  was,  and  she  could  not 
take  her  eyes  off  its  face.  It  was  like  a  primrose 
trying  to  express  doubt  instead  of  confidence.  It 
seemed  to  put  her  half  in  mind  of  something,  and 
she  felt  as  if  shame  were  coming.  She  put  out  her 
hand  to  pluck  it ;  but  the  moment  her  fingers 
touched  it,  the  flower  withered  up,  and  hung  as 


A    PARABLE.  IQ1 

dead  on  its  stalk  as  if  a  flame  of  fire  had  passed 
over  it. 

Then  a  shudder  thrilled  through  the  heart  of  the 
princess,  and  she  thought  with  herself,  saying — 
"  What  sort  of  a  creature  am  I  that  the  flowers 
wither  when  I  touch  them,  and  the  ponies  despise 
me  with  their  tails  ?  What  a  wretched,  coarse, 
ill-bred  creature  I  must  be !  There  is  that  lovely 
child  giving  life  instead  of  death  to  the  flowers,  and 
a  moment  ago  I  was  hating  her!  I  am  made 
horrid,  and  I  shall  be  horrid,  and  I  hate  myself,  and 
yet  I  can't  help  being  myself! " 

She  heard  the  sound  of  galloping  feet,  and  there 
was  the  pony,  with  the  child  seated  betwixt  his  wings, 
coming  straight  on  at  full  speed  for  where  she  lay. 

"  I  don't  care,"  she  said.  "  They  may  trample 
me  under  their  feet  if  they  like.  I  am  tired  and 
sick  of  myself— a  creature  at  whose  touch  the 
flowers  wither ! " 


192  THE    WISE    W03IAX. 

On  came  the  winged  pony.  But  while  yet  some 
distance  off,  he  gave  a  great  bound,  spread  out  his 
living  sails  of  blue,  rose  yards  and  yards  above 
her  in  the  air,  and  alighted  as  gently  as  a  bird, 
just  a  few  feet  on  the  other  side  of  her.  The 
child  slipped  down  and  came  and  kneeled  over 
her. 

"Did  my  pony  hurt  you?"  she  said.  "I  am  so 
sorry !" 

"  Yes,  he  hurt  me,"  answered  the  princess,  "  but 
not  more  than  I  deserved,  for  I  took  liberties  with 
him,  and  he  did  not  like  it.M 

"  Oh,  you  dear  ! "  said  the  little  girl.  "  I  love  you 
for  talking  so  of  my  Peggy.  He  is  a  good  pony, 
though  a  little  playful  sometimes.  Would  you  like 
a  ride  upon  him?" 

"  You  darling  beauty!"  cried  Rosamond, sobbing. 
"  I  do  love  you  so,  you  are  so  good.  How  did  you 
become  so  sweet?" 


A    PARABLE. 


193 


"Would  you  like  to  ride  my  pony?"  repeated 
the  child,  with  a  heavenly  smile  in  her  eyes. 

"  No,  no  ;  he  is  fit  only  for  you.  My  clumsy 
body  would  hurt  him,"  said  Rosamond. 

"  You  don't  mind  me  having  such  a  pony  ? "  said 
the  child. 

"  What !  mind  it  ? "  cried  Rosamond,  almost 
indignantly.  Then  remembering  certain  thoughts 
that  had  but  a  few  moments  before  passed  through 
her  mind,  she  looked  on  the  ground  and  was  silent 

"You  don't  mind  it,  then?"  repeated  the  child. 

"  I  am  very  glad  there  is  such  a  you  and  such  a 
pony,  and  that  such  a  you  has  got  such  a  pony," 
said  Rosamond,  still  looking  on  the  ground.  "  But 
I  do  wish  the  flowers  would  not  die  \vlicn  I  touch 
them.  I  was  cross  to  see  you  make  them  grow, 
but  now  I  should  be  content  if  only  I  did  not  make 
them  wither." 

As  she  spoke,  she  stroked  the  little  girl's  bare 
o 


194  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 

feet,  which  were  by  her,  half  buried  in  the  soft 
moss,  and  as  she  ended  she  laid  her  cheek  on  them 
and  kissed  them. 

"Dear  princess,"  said  the  little  girl,  "the 
flowers  will  not  always  wither  at  your  touch. 
Try  now — only  do  not  pluck  it.  Flowers  ought 
never  to  be  plucked  except  to  give  away.  Touch 
it  gently." 

A  silvery  flower,  something  like  a  snowdrop, 
grew  just  within  her  reach.  Timidly  she  stretched 
out  her  hand  and  touched  it.  The  flower  trem- 
bled, but  neither  shrank  nor  withered. 

"  Touch  it  again,"  said  the  child. 

It  changed  colour  a  little,  and  Rosamond  fancied 
it  grew  larger. 

"  Touch  it  again,"  said  the  child. 

It  opened  and  grew  until  it  was  as  large  as  a 
narcissus,  and  changed  and  deepened  in  colour 
till  it  was  a  red  glowing  gold. 


A    PAYABLE.  195 

Rosamond  gazed  motionless.  When  the  trans- 
figuration of  the  flower  was  perfected,  she  sprang 
to  her  feet  with  clasped  hands,  but  for  very  ecstasy 
of  joy  stood  speechless,  gazing  at  the  child. 

"  Did  you  never  see  me  before,  Rosamond  ? "  she 
asked. 

•'  No,  never,"  answered  the  princess.  "  I  never 
saw  anything  half  so  lovely." 

"  Look  at  me,"  said  the  child. 

And  as  Rosamond  looked,  the  child  began,  like 
the  flower,  to  grow  larger.  Quickly  through  every 
gradation  of  growth  she  passed,  until  she  stood 
before  her  a  woman  perfectly  beautiful,  neither  old 
nor  young  ;  for  hers  was  the  old  age  of  everlasting 
youth. 

Rosamond  was  utterly  enchanted,  and  stood 
gazing  without  word  or  movement,  until  she  could 
endure  no  more  delight.  Then  her  mind  collapsed 
to  the  thought — had  the  pony  grown  too  ?  She 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


glanced  round.  There  was  no  pony,  no  grass,  no 
flowers,  no  bright-birded  forest — but  the  cottage  of 
the  wise  woman — and  before  her,  on  the  hearth  of 
it,  the  goddess-child,  the  only  thing  unchanged. 

She  gasped  with  astonishment 

"  You  must  set  out  for  your  father's  palace  im- 
mediately," said  the  lady. 

"  But  where  is  the  wise  woman  ? "  asked  Rosa- 
mond, looking  all  about 

"Here!"  said  the  lady. 

And  Rosamond,  looking  again,  saw  the  wise 
woman,  folded  as  usual  in  her  long  dark  cloak. 

"  It  was  you,  then,  after  all!"  she  cried  in  de- 
light, and  kneeled  before  her,  burying  her  face  in 
her  garments. 

"  It  always  is  me,  after  all,"  said  the  wise  woman, 
smiling. 

"And  it  was  you  all  the  time?" 

"  It  always  is  me  all  the  time." 


A    PARABLE.  197 

"  But  which  is  the  real  you  ?"  asked  Rosamond  ; 
"  this  or  that  ? " 

"  Or  a  thousand  others  ? "  returned  the  wise 
woman.  "  But  the  one  you  have  just  seen  is  the 
likcst  to  the  real  me  that  you  are  able  to  see  just 
yet — but — .  And  that  me  you  could  not  have 
seen  a  little  while  ago. — But,  my  darling  child," 
she  went  on,  lifting  her  up  and  clasping  her  to 
her  bosom,  "  you  must  not  think,  because  you  have 
seen  me  once,  that  therefore  you  are  capable  of 
seeing  me  at  all  times.  No ;  there  are  many 
things  in  you  yet  that  must  be  changed  before 
that  can  be.  Now,  however,  you  will  seek  me. 
Every  time  you  feel  you  want  me,  that  is  a  sign 
I  am  wanting  you.  There  are  yet  many  rooms 
in  my  house  you  may  have  to  go  through  ;  but 
when  you  need  no  more  of  them,  then  you  will 
be  able  to  throw  flowers  like  the  little  girl  you  saw 
in  the  forest" 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


The  princess  gave  a  sigh. 

"Do  not  think,"  the  wise  woman  went  on, 
"  that  the  things  you  have  seen  in  my  house  are 
mere  empty  shows.  You  do  not  know,  you  cannot 
yet  think,  how  living  and  true  they  are.  Now  you 
must  go." 

She  led  her  once  more  into  the  great  hall,  and 
there  showed  her  the  picture  of  her  father's  capital, 
and  his  palace  with  the  brazen  gates. 

"  There  is  your  home,"  she  said.     "  Go  to  it." 

The  princess  understood,  and  a  flush  of  shame 
rose  to  her  forehead.  She  turned  to  the  wise 
woman  and  said  : — 

"  Will  you  forgive  all  my  naughtiness,  and  all 
the  trouble  I  have  given  you  ?" 

"  If  I  had  not  forgiven  you,  I  would  never  have 
taken  the  trouble  to  punish  you.  If  I  had  not. 
loved  you,  do  you  think  I  would  have  carried  you 
away  in  my  cloak  ? " 


A    PARABLE.  199 

"  How  could  you  love  such  an  ugly,  ill-tem- 
pered, rude,  hateful  little  wretch  ?" 

"  I  saw,  through  it  all,  what  you  were  going  to 
be,"  said  the  wise  woman,  kissing  her.  "  But  re- 
member you  have  yet  only  begun  to  be  what  I  saw." 

"I  will  try  to  remember,"  said  the  princess, 
holding  her  cloak,  and  looking  up  in  her  face. 

"  Go,  then,"  said  the  wise  woman. 

Rosamond  turned  away  on  the  instant,  ran  to 
the  picture,  stepped  over  the  frame  of  it,  heard  a 
door  close  gently,  gave  one  glance  back,  saw 
behind  her  the  loveliest  palace-front  of  alabaster, 
gleaming  in  the  pale-yellow  light  of  an  early 
summer-morning,  looked  again  to  the  eastward, 
saw  the  faint  outline  of  her  father's  city  against 
the  sky,  and  ran  off  to  reach  it. 

It  looked  much  further  off  now  than  when  it 
seemed  a  picture,  but  the  sun  was  not  yet  up,  and 
she  had  the  whole  of  a  summer-day  before  her. 


CHAPTER   XIV. 

HTHE  soldiers  sent  out  by  the  king,  had  no  great 
difficulty  in  finding  Agnes's  father  and  mother, 
of  whom  they  demanded  if  they  knew  anything  of 
such  a  young  princess  as  they  described.  The 
honest  pair  told  them  the  truth  in  every  point — 
that,  having  lost  their  own  child  and  found 
another,  they  had  taken  her  home,  and  treated  her 
as  their  own  ;  that  she  had  indeed  called  herself  a 
princess,  but  they  had  not  believed  her,  because  she 
did  not  look  like  one  ;  that,  even  if  they  had,  they 
did  not  know  how  they  could  have  done  differently, 
seeing  they  were  poor  people,  who  could  not  afford 


A    PARABLE.  2OI 

to  keep  any  idle  person  about  the  place  ;  that  they 
had  done  their  best  to  teach  her  good  ways,  and 
had  not  parted  with  her  until  her  bad  temper  ren- 
dered it  impossible  to  put  up  with  her  any  longer  ; 
that,  as  to  the  king's  proclamation,  they  heard 
little  of  the  world's  news  on  their  lonely  hill, 
and  it  had  never  reached  them  ;  that  if  it  had, 
they  did  not  know  how  either  of  them  could 
have  gone  such  a  distance  from  home,  and  left 
their  sheep  or  their  cottage,  one  or  the  other,  un- 
cared  for. 

"  You  must  learn,  then,  how  both  of  you  can  go, 
and  your  sheep  must  take  care  of  your  cottage," 
said  the  lawyer,  and  commanded  the  soldiers  to 
bind  them  hand  and  foot. 

Heedless  of  their  entreaties  to  be  spared  such  an 
indignity,  the  soldiers  obeyed,  bore  them  10  a  cart, 
and  set  out  for  the  king's  palace,  leaving  the  cot- 
tage door  open,  the  fire  burning,  the  pot  of  potatoes 


2O2  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


boiling  upon  it,  the  sheep  scattered  over  the  hill, 
and  the  dogs  not  knowing  what  to  do. 

Hardly  were  they  gone,  however,  before  the  wise 
woman  walked  up,  with  Prince  behind  her,  peeped 
into  the  cottage,  locked  the  door,  put  the  key  in 
her  pocket,  and  then  walked  away  up  the  hill.  In 
a  few  minutes  there  arose  a  great  battle  between 
Prince  and  the  dog  which  filled  his  former  place — 
a  well-meaning  but  dull  fellow,  who  could  fight 
better  than  feed.  Prince  was  not  long  in  showing 
him  that  he  was  meant  for  his  master,  and  then,  by 
his  efforts,  and  directions  to  the  other  dogs,  the 
sheep  wrere  soon  gathered  again,  and  out  of  danger 
from  foxes  and  bad  dogs.  As  soon  as  this  was 
done,  the  wise  woman  left  them  in  charge  of. 
Prince,  while  she  went  to  the  next  farm  to  arrange 
for  the  folding  of  the  sheep,  and  the  feeding  of 
the  dogs. 

When  the  soldiers  reached  the  palace,  they  were 


A    PARABLE.  2OJ 


ordered  to  carry  their  prisoners  at  once  into  the 
presence  of  the  king  and  queen,  in  the  throne 
room.  Their  two  thrones  stood  upon  a  high  dais 
at  one  end,  and  on  the  floor,  at  the  foot  of  the  dais, 
the  soldiers  laid  their  helpless  prisoners.  The 
queen  commanded  that  they  should  be  unbound, 
and  ordered  them  to  stand  up.  They  obeyed  with 
the  dignity  of  insulted  innocence,  and  their  bearing 
offended  their  foolish  majesties. 

Meantime  the  princess,  after  a  long  day's  jour- 
ney, arrived  at  the  palace,  and  walked  up  to  the 
sentry  at  the  gate. 

"  Stand  back,"  said  the  sentry. 

"  I  wish  to  go  in,  if  you  please,"  said  the  princess 
gently. 

"  Ha !  ha !  ha  ! "  laughed  the  sentry,  for  he  was 
one  of  those  dull  people  who  form  their  judgment 
from  a  person's  clothes,  without  even  looking  in  his 
eyes  ;  and  as  the  princess  happened  to  be  in  rags, 


2O4  THE    WISE    WOMAN". 


her  request  was  amusing,  ,and  the  booby  thought 
himself  quite  clever  for  laughing  at  her  so 
thoroughly. 

"  I  am  the  princess,"  Rosamond  said  quietly. 

"  What  princess  ? "  bellowed  the  man. 

"  The  princess  Rosamond.  Is  there  another  ? " 
she  answered  and  asked. 

But  the  man  was  so  tickled  at  the  wondrous  idea 
of  a  princess  in  rags,  that  he  scarcely  heard  what 
she  said  for  laughing.  As  soon  as  he  recovered  a 
little,  he  proceeded  to  chuck  the  princess  under  the 
chin,  saying — 

"  You're  a  pretty  girl,  my  dear,  though  you  ain't 
no  princess." 

Rosamond  drew  back  with  dignity. 

"  You  have  spoken  three  untruths  at  once,"  she 
said.  "  I  am  not  pretty,  and  I  am  a  princess,  and 
if  I  were  dear  to  you,  as  I  ought  to  be,  you  would 
not  laugh  at  me  because  I  am  badly  dressed,  but 


A    PARABLE.  20$ 

stand  aside,  and  let  me  go  to  my  father  and 
mother." 

The  tone  of  her  speech,  and  the  rebuke  she  gave 
him,  made  the  man  look  at  her ;  and  looking  at 
her,  he  began  to  tremble  inside  his  foolish  body, 
and  wonder  whether  he  might  not  have  made  a 
mistake.  He  raised  his  hand  in  salute,  and  said— 

"  I  beg  your  pardon,  Miss,  but  I  have  express 
orders  to  admit  no  child  whatever  within  the  palace 
gates.  They  tell  me  his  majesty  the  king  says  he 
is  sick  of  children." 

"  He  may  well  be  sick  of  me  ! "  thought  the  prin- 
cess ;  "  but  it  can't  mean  that  he  does  not  want  me 
home  again. — I  don't  think  you  can  very  well  call  me 
a  child,"  she  said,  looking  the  sentry  full  in  the  face. 

"You  ain't  very  big,  Miss,"  answered  the  soldier, 
"  but  so  be  you  say  you  ain't  a  child,  I'll  take  the 
risk.  The  king  can  only  kill  me,  and  a  man  must 
die  once." 


2C)6  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


He  opened  the  gate,  stepped  aside,  and  allowed 
lier  to  pass.  Had  she  lost  her  temper,  as  every  one 
but  the  wise  woman  would  have  expected  of  her, 
lie  certainly  would  not  have  done  so. 

She  ran  into  the  palace,  the  door  of  which  had 
ibeen  left  open  by  the  porter  when  he  followed  the 
soldiers  and  prisoners  to  the  throne-room,  and 
bounded  up  the  stairs  to  look  for  her  father  and 
mother.  As  she  passed  the  door  of  the  throne-room 
she  heard  an  unusual  noise  in  it,  and  running  to 
the  king's  private  entrance,  over  which  hung  a 
heavy  curtain,  she  peeped  past  the  edge  of  it,  and 
saw,  to  her  amazement,  the  shepherd  and  shep- 
herdess standing  like  culprits  before  the  king  and 
queen,  and  the  same  moment  heard  the  king  say — 

"  Peasants,  where  is  the  princess  Rosamond  ?  " 

"Truly,  sire,  we  do  not  know,"  answered  the 
shepherd. 

"  You  ought  to  know,"  said  the  king. 


A    PARABLE.  2O7 

"  Sire,  we  could  keep  her  no  longer." 

"  You  confess,  then,"  said  the  king,  suppressing 
the  outbreak  of  the  wrath  that  boiled  up  in  him, 
"  that  you  turned  her  out  of  your  house  ?  " 

For  the  king  had  been  informed  by  a  swift 
messenger  of  all  that  had  passed  long  before  the 
arrival  of  the  prisoners. 

"  We  did,  sire  ;  but  not  only  could  we  keep  her 
no  longer,  but  we  knew  not  that  she  was  the 
princess." 

"You  ought  to  have  known,  the  moment  you 
cast  your  eyes  upon  her,"  said  the  king.  "Any  one 
who  does  not  know  a  princess  the  moment  he  sees 
her,  ought  to  have  his  eyes  put  out." 

"  Indeed  he  ought,"  said  the  queen. 

To  this  they  returned  no  answer,  for  they  had 
none  ready. 

"Why  did  you  not  bring  her  at  once  to  the 
palace,"  pursued  the  king,  "  whether  you  knew  her 


2O8  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


to  be  a  princess  or  not  ?  My  proclamation  left 
nothing  to  your  judgment.  It  said  every  child." 

"  We  heard  nothing  of  the  proclamation,  sire." 

"  You  ought  to  have  heard,"  said  the  king.  "  It 
is  enough  that  I  make  proclamations ;  it  is  for  you 
to  read  them.  Are  they  not  written  in  letters  of 
gold  upon  the  brazen  gates  of  this  palace  ? " 

"A  poor  shepherd,  your  majesty — how  often 
must  he  leave  his  flock,  and  go  hundreds  of  miles 
to  look  whether  there  may  not  be  something  in 
letters  of  gold  upon  the  brazen  gates  ?  We  did  not 
know  that  your  majesty  had  made  a  proclamation, 
or  even  that  the  princess  was  lost." 

"  You  ought  to  have  known,"  said  the  king. 

The  shepherd  held  his  peace. 

"  But,"  said  the  queen,  taking  up  the  word,  "  all 
that  is  as  nothing,  when  I  think  how  you  misused 
the  darling." 

The  only  ground  the  queen  had  for  saying  this, 


A   PARABLE.  209 

was  what  Agnes  had  told  her  as  to  how  the  princess 
was  dressed ;  and  her  condition  seemed  to  the 
queen  so  miserable,  that  she  had  imagined  all  sorts 
of  oppression  and  cruelty. 

But  this  was  more  than  the  shepherdess,  who 
had  not  yet  spoken,  could  bear. 

"  She  would  have  been  dead,  and  not  buried,  long 
ago,  madam,  if  I  had  not  carried  her  home  in  my 
two  arms." 

"  Why  does  the  woman  say  her  two  arms  ? "  said 
the  king  to  himself.  "  Has  she  more  than  two  ? 
Is  there  treason  in  that?" 

"  You  dressed  her  in  cast-off  clothes,"  said  the 
queen. 

•'  I  dressed  her  in  my  own  sweet  child's  Sunday 
clothes.  And  this  is  what  I  get  for  it ! "  cried  the 
shepherdess,  bursting  into  tears. 

"  And  what  did  you  do  with  the  clothes  you  took 
off  her?  Sell  them?" 

P 


2IO  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


"  Put  them  in  the  fire,  madam.  They  were  not 
fit  for  the  poorest  child  in  the  mountains.  They 
were  so  ragged  that  you  could  see  her  skin  through 
them  in  twenty  different  places." 

"You  cruel  woman,  to  torture  a  mother's  feelings 
so  ! "  cried  the  queen,  and  in  her  turn  burst  into 
tears. 

"And  I'm  sure,"  sobbed  the  shepherdess,  "I 
took  every  pains  to  teach  her  what  it  was  right  for 
her  to  know.  I  taught  her  to  tidy  the  house,, 
and " 

"  Tidy  the  house ! "  moaned  the  queen.  "  My 
poor  wretched  offspring  ! " 

"  And  peel  the  potatoes,  and " 

"  Peel  the  potatoes !  "  cried  the  queen.  "  Oh, 
horror ! " 

"  And  black  her  master's  boots,"  said  the  shep- 
herdess. 

"  Black  her  master's  boots  ! "  shrieked  the  queen. 


A    PARABLE.  211 

"  Oh,  my  white-handed  princess  !  Oh,  my  ruined 
baby ! " 

"  What  I  want  to  know,"  said  the  king,  paying 
no  heed  to  this  maternal  duel,  but  patting  the  top 
of  his  sceptre  as  if  it  had  been  the  hilt  of  a  sword 
which  he  was  about  to  draw,  "  is,  where  the  princess 
is  now." 

The  shepherd  made  no  answer,  for  he  had  nothing 
to  say  more  than  he  had  said  already. 

"  You  have  murdered  her ! "  shouted  the  king. 
"You  shall  be  tortured  till  you  confess  the  truth  ; 
and  then  you  shall  be  tortured  to  death,  for  you 
are  the  most  abominable  wretches  in  the  whole 
wide  world." 

"  Who  accuses  me  of  crime  ?  "  cried  the  shcphcrJ, 
indignant. 

"I  accuse  you,"  said  the  king;  "but  you  shall 
£2C,  face  to  face,  the  chief  witness  to  your  villain)-. 
Officer,  bring  the  girl." 


212  THE    WISE    WOMAN'. 


Silence  filled  the  hall  while  they  waited.  The 
king's  face  was  swollen  with  anger.  The  queen  hid 
hers  behind  her  handkerchief.  The  shepherd  and 
shepherdess  bent  their  eyes  on  the  ground,  wonder- 
ing. It  was  with  difficulty  Rosamond  could  keep 
her  place,  but  so  wise  had  she  already  become  that 
she  saw  it  would  be  far  better  to  let  everything 
come  out  before  she  interfered. 

At  length  the  door  opened,  and  in  came  the 
officer,  followed  by  Agnes,  looking  white  as  death, 
and  mean  as  sin. 

"  The  shepherdess  gave  a  shriek,  and  darted 
towards  her  with  arms  spread  wide  ;  the  shepherd 
followed,  but  not  so  eagerly. 

"  My  child  !  my  lost  darling  !  my  Agnes ! "  cried 
the  shepherdess. 

"  Hold  them  asunder,"  shouted  the  king.  "Here 
is  more  villainy  !  "  What !  have  I  a  scullery-maid 
in  my  house  born  of  such  parents  ?  The  parents 


A    PARABLE.  213 

of  such  a  child  must  be  capable  of  anything.  Take 
all  three  of  them  to  the  rack.  Stretch  them  till 
their  joints  are  torn  asunder,  and  give  them  no 
water.  Away  with  them  !  " 

The  soldiers  approached  to  lay  hands  on  them. 
But,  behold  !  a  girl,  all  in  rags,  with  such  a  radiant 
countenance  that  it  was  right  lovely  to  see,  darted 
between,  and  careless  of  the  royal  presence,  flung 
herself  upon  the  shepherdess,  crying, — 

"Do  not  touch  her.  She  is  my  good,  kind 
mistress." 

But  the  shepherdess  could  hear  or  see  no  one  but 
her  Agnes,  and  pushed  her  away.  Then  the  princess 
turned,  with  the  tears  in  her  eyes,  to  the  shepherd, 
and  thicw  her  arms  about  his  neck  and  pulled 
down  his  head  and  kissed  him.  And  the  tall  shep- 
herd lifted  her  to  his  bosom  and  kept  her  there, 
but  his  eyes  were  fixed  on  his  Agnes. 

"  What  is  the  meaning  of  this  ? "  cried  the  king, 


2  I  4.  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


starting  up  from  his  throne.  "  How  did  that 
ragged  girl  get  in  here  ?  Take  her  away  with  the 
rest.  She  is  one  of  them,  too." 

But  the  princess  made  the  shepherd  set  her 
down,  and  before  any  one  could  interfere  she  had 
run  up  the  steps  of  the  dais  and  then  the  steps 
of  the  king's  throne  like  a  squirrel,  flung  herself 
upon  the  king,  and  begun  to  smother  him  with 
kisses. 

All  stood  astonished,  except  the  three  peasants, 
who  did  not  even  see  what  took  place.  The 
shepherdess  kept  calling  to  her  Agnes,  but  she  was 
so  ashamed  that  she  did  not  dare  even  lift  her  eyes 
to  meet  her  mother's,  and  the  shepherd  kept  gazing 
on  her  in  silence.  As  for  the  king,  he  was  so 
breathless  and  aghast  with  astonishment,  that  he 
was  too  feeble  to  fling  the  ragged  child  from  him 
as  he  tried  to  do.  But  she  left  him,  and  running 
down  the  steps  of  the  one  throne  and  up  those  of 


A    PARABLE.  215 

the  other,  began  kissing  the  queen  next.  But  the 
queen  cried  out, — 

"  Get  away,  you  great  rude  child  ! — Will  nobody 
take  her  to  the  rack  ? " 

Then  the  princess,  hardly  knowing  what  she  did 
for  joy  that  she  had  come  in  time,  ran  down  the 
steps  of  the  throne  and  the  dais,  and  placing  herself 
between  the  shepherd  and  shepherdess,  took  a  hand 
of  each,  and  stood  looking  at  the  king  and  queen. 


CHAPTER  XV. 

'"THEIR  faces  began  to  change.  At  last  they 
began  to  know  her.  But  she  was  so  altered — so 
lovelily  altered,  that  it  was  no  wonder  they  should 
not  have  known  her  at  the  first  glance  ;  but  it  was 
the  fault  of  the  pride  and  anger  and  injustice  with 
which  their  hearts  were  filled,  that  they  did  not 
know  her  at  the  second. 

The  king  gazed  and  the  queen  gazed,  both  half 
risen  from  their  thrones,  and  looking  as  if  about  to 
tumble  down  upon  her,  if  only  they  could  be  right 
sure  that  the  ragged  girl  was  their  own  child.  A 
mistake  would  be  such  a  dreadful  thing  ! 


A    PARABLE.  217 

"My  darling!"  at  last  shrieked  the  mother,  a 
little  doubtfully. 

"  My  pet  of  pets !  "  cried  the  father,  with  an 
interrogative  twist  of  tone. 

Another  moment,  and  they  were  half  way  down 
the  steps  of  the  dais. 

"  Stop ! "  said  a  voice  of  command  from  some- 
where in  the  hall,  and,  king  and  queen  as  they 
were,  they  stopped  at  once  half  way,  then  drew 
themselves  up,  stared,  and  began  to  grow  angry 
again,  but  durst  not  go  farther. 

The  wise  woman  was  coming  slowly  up  through 
the  crowd  that  filled  the  hall.  Every  one  made 
way  for  her.  She  came  straight  on  until  she  stood 
in  front  of  the  king  and  queen. 

"  Miserable  man  and  woman ! "  she  said,  in 
words  they  alone  could  hear,  "I  took  your  daughter 
away  when  she  was  worthy  of  such  parents  ;  I 
bring  her  back,  and  they  arc  unworthy  of  her. 


-2  I  8  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


That  you  did  not  know  her  when  she  came  to  you 
is  a  small  wonder,  for  you  have  been  blind  in  soul 
all  your  lives  :  now  be  blind  in  body  until  your 
better  eyes  are  unsealed." 

She  threw  her  cloak  open.  It  fell  to  the  ground, 
and  the  radiance  that  flashed  from  her  robe  of 
snowy  whiteness,  from  her  face  of  awful  beauty, 
and  from  her  eyes  that  shone  like  pools  of  sunlight, 
smote  them  blind. 

Rosamond  saw  them  give  a  great  start,  shudder, 
waver  to  and  fro,  then  sit  down  on  the  steps  of  the 
dais  ;  and  she  knew  they  were  punished,  but  knew 
not  how.  She  rushed  up  to  them,  and  catching  a 
hand  of  each,  said — 

"  Father,  dear  father !  mother  dear !  I  will  ask 
the  wise  woman  to  forgive  you." 

"  Oh,  I  am  blind  !  I  am  blind  ! "  they  cried 
together.  "  Dark  as  night !  Stone  blind  ! " 

Rosamond  left  them,  sprang  down  the  steps,  and 


A    PARABLE.  219 

kneeling  at  her  feet,  cried,  "  Oh,  my  lovely  wise 
woman  !  do  let  them  see.  Do  open  their  eyes, 
dear,  good,  wise  woman!" 

The  wise  woman  bent  down  to  her,  and  said,  so 
that  none  else  could  hear, — 

"  I  will  one  day.  Meanwhile  you  must  be  their 
servant,  as  I  have  been  yours.  Bring  them  to  me, 
and  I  will  make  them  welcome." 

Rosamond  rose,  went  up  the  steps  again  to  her 
father  and  mother,  where  they  sat  like  statues  with 
closed  eyes,  half-way  from  the  top  of  the  dais  where 
stood  their  empty  thrones,  seated  herself  between 
them,  took  a  hand  of  each,  and  was  still. 

All  this  time  very  few  in  the  room  saw  the  wise 
woman.  The  moment  she  threw  off  her  cloak  she 
vanished  from  the  sight  of  almost  all  who  were 
present.  The  woman  who  swept  and  dusted  the 
hall  and  brushed  the  thrones,  saw  her,  and  the 
shepherd  had  a  glimmering  vision  of  her ;  but  no 


22O  THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


one  else  that  I  know  of  caught  a  glimpse  of  her. 
The  shepherdess  did  not  see  her.  Nor  did  Agnes, 
but  she  felt  her  presence  upon  her  like  the  heat  of 
a  furnace  seven  times  heated. 

As  soon  as  Rosamond  ha,d  taken  her  place 
between  her  father  and  mother,  the  wise  woman 
lifted  her  cloak  from  the  floor,  and  threw  it  again 
around  her.  Then  everybody  saw  her,  and  Agnes- 
felt  as  if  a  soft  dewy  cloud  had  come  between  her 
and  the  torrid  rays  of  a  vertical  sun.  The  wise 
woman  turned  to  the  shepherd  and  shepherdess. 

"  For  you,"  she  said,  "  you  are  sufficiently  pun- 
ished by  the  work  of  your  own  hands.  Instead  of 
making  your  daughter  obey  you,  you  left  her  to  be 
a  slave  to  herself;  you  coaxed  when  you  ought 
to  have  compelled  ;  you  praised  when  you  ought 
to  have  been  silent ;  you  fondled  when  you  ought 
to  have  punished  ;  you  threatened  when  you  ought 
to  have  inflicted — and  there  she  stands,  the  full- 


A    PARABLE.  221 

grown  result  of  your  foolishness  !  She  is  your 
crime  and  your  punishment.  Take  her  home  with 
you,  and  live  hour  after  hour  with  the  pale-hearted 
disgrace  you  call  your  daughter.  What  she  is,  the 
worm  at  her  heart  has  begun  to  teach  her.  When 
life  is  no  longer  endurable,  come  to  me." 

"Madam,"  said  the  shepherd,  "may  I  not  go 
with  you  now  ? " 

"  You  shall,"  said  the  wise  woman. 
"Husband!   husband!"   cried   the  shepherdess, 
*  how  are  we  two  to  get  home  without  you  ?  " 

"  I  will  see  to  that,"  said  the  wise  woman.  "  But 
little  of.  home  you  will  find  it  until  you  have  come 
to  me.  The  king  carried  you  hither,  and  he  shall 
carry  you  back.  But  your  husband  shall  not  go 
with  you.  He  cannot  now  if  he  would." 

The  shepherdess  looked,  and  saw  that  the  shep- 
herd stood  in  a  deep  sleep.  She  went  to  him  and 
sought  to  rouse  him,  but  neither  tongue  nor  hands 
were  of  the  slightest  avail 


THE    WISE    WOMAN. 


The  wise  woman  turned  to  Rosamond. 

"  My  child,"  she  said,  "  I  shall  never  be  far  from 
you.  Come  to  me  when  you  will.  Bring  them  to 
me." 

Rosamond  smiled  and  kissed  her  hand,  but  kept 
her  place  by  her  parents.  They  also  were  now  in 
a  deep  sleep  like  the  shepherd. 

The  wise  woman  took  the  shepherd  by  the  hand, 
and  led  him  away. 

"  And  that  is  all  my  double  story.  How  double 
it  is,  if  you  care  to  know,  you  must  find  out.  If 
you  think  it  is  not  finished — I  never  knew  a  story 
that  was.  I  could  tell  you  a  great  deal  more 
concerning  them  all,  but  I  have  already  told  more 
than  is  good  for  those  who  read  but  with  their 
foreheads,  and  enough  for  those  whom  it  has  made 
look  a  little  solemn,  and  sigh  as  they  close  the 
book. 


A     000112805     7 


* 


9        •         4         *         *         *         » 

*    *    ^   *    *   $:   * 

•  A          *          •          *          *  •          « 

•  «       "&        *         »       ^       •         • 


.      •  #            •            a            •            *           *            •           •».'•*' 

^  y          *        ^       *         «       ^       *         *       "HT       * 

^^  ^^                            *^^                            ^^ 

•  9           •           •           •»           •           *           •           •'•* 
*•«»«           »*«•*« 

*  X"    *      *     X"    *      *     X"'    *  •'  * 

4  V            «            *            •            *            «            *            «            «            « 


•      •      * 


»        •  <      •        «        • 

«         ••&"         *  *         "TW 

»  »  •  •  • 

•  «  •  •  • 


*•*•* 


*••* 

*    *    *  -  ••• 


•BT1 


*     »     •     •     • 


•  «  •          * 


*       *       *    -  -  *       «       • .     *       * 


•    •    * 


• 
»     • 


«    *    *    • 


«     *     *     •     « 
*     •     *     * 


•  ••0*4 

*  •  8  »  * 

•••'•          .-*  •  •  *      . 

*  *  « 


**» 

*  *  •  * 


*  -  •        *  *  *  < 

»  4  »         •    *       •       »